CATERING costs loomed large at yesterday's Southern Downs Regional Council general meeting as councillors talked of cocktail parties and art gallery openings.
Sparking spirited debate was a proposal for either the Warwick or Stanthorpe art gallery to host a roadshow exhibition featuring portraits of Australia's Victoria Cross winners throughout history.
The exhibition is being run by a non-profit group but the catch is that hosting councils must put on a cocktail party for 100 or so "prominent local citizens", councillors and council staff - a gathering likely to cost between $2000 and $3000.
The council would also have to pick up the $2000 tab on promotion of the exhibition - run by the Coo-ee Convoy group between now and 2014 - unless sponsors could be found.
First to fire up about the cocktail party was Cr Jamie Mackenzie, who claimed he could cater an event for as little as $3 a head, compared to $30.
"Who are the prominent people anyway and how are they chosen?" he asked.
"I'd suggest we could bring the cost down to $300 and get the QCWA to cater it, and councillors can wait on guests and wash up.
"I just think at a time when we are trying to rein in expenses this is excessive.
"And why is this group able to dictate that we hold a cocktail party anyway?"
Mayor Peter Blundell said the figures quoted by council officers in their report on the exhibition were, as he understood it, purely indicative.
"If we can do it for tuppence a head then that's up to us," the mayor said.
Cr Denise Ingram said a social gathering was standard practice for art gallery openings and Cr Cameron Gow agreed, saying the term cocktail party was "a bit fancy for me. I think what we're talking about is an opening, with cheese and nibbles and a couple of bottles of wine, which is fairly normal when an exhibition opens", Cr Gow said.
"The Stanthorpe art gallery usually has local wine donated and the wineries set up a stand and signage to promote themselves.
"I think we need to negotiate with the galleries and wineries and see what we can come up with, but I'm happy to turn up in an apron and serve."
Cr Mackenzie moved that council cap the function budget at $300, which lapsed for want of a seconder.
Councillors then agreed to discuss the catering amount further as part of general budget talks, with broad agreement that $3000 was excessive. The council budget is due to be unveiled by the end of next month.