MIDWEEK upstaged an annual council lunch on Thursday with a kebab van - as we urged councillors to eat cheaper grub without dipping into the public purse.

Armed with a trailer from Dennis's Kebab Centre in High Street, High Wycombe, we turned up outside Green Park Conference Centre near Aylesbury, just two hours before Buckinghamshire County Councillors were set to tuck into a "banquet".

The council's Annual General Meeting meal is estimated to cost more than £1,000 to stage and includes a choice of red and white wine.

Midweek's sister paper, the Bucks Free Press, previously reported that staff and councillors at the county council spent £107,000 on refreshments last year.

So we thought we would make a point by offering cheaper grub outside.

We were joined by Cllr Julia Wassell and Cllr Chaudhary Ditta (both Lab, Bowerdean, Micklefield & Totteridge) who choose not to eat the feast each year on principle.

They instead bought their own sandwiches which cost less than £3 between them.

Cllr Wassell said: "It would definitely be better if we instated kebab vans at every council meeting. That would save £20,000 plus a year and that could help run Micklefield Library."

Cllr Wassell said she had only eaten the meal once in ten years while on the county council.

She said: "I think the cost is excessive, but also I don't want to eat a large banquet if I have to make important decisions in the afternoon. Also I think there is too much focus on the lunch at the meeting.

"It seems the lunch is the main dish with council business tucked to the side of it. Some of the councillors actually fall asleep in the meeting after lunch.

"Ordinary people in Buckinghamshire are out at work and they don't have red and white wine for lunch."

Cllr Ditta said: "I also believe that it is unnecessary."

The county council said the most popular dish at meals was usually meat or poultry - making our kebab van a perfect alternative for refreshment.

Between 65 and 70 members and staff had the meal at noon, which costs an estimated average of £17 per head.

But a Dennis's donor kebab, which I tucked into, costs as little as £2.50 with a can of drink at 60p.

That meant the council could have saved the public around £14 each per head if they went for the cheaper alternative.

Cllr Mary Baldwin, leader of the Bucks Liberal Democrats, said her members were having the meal but were willing to pay for it. She said: "We are willing to pay for it - I don't agree with providing wine either. I think we should have to pay for it."

Our stunt caused ripples of amusement in the council chamber as news spread from outside.

Cllr Wassell later raised the matter during questions to county council leader David Shakespeare, saying too much was being spent on members' expenses.

The county council said offering members a meal at the meeting made little difference to costs - even if they were made to make their own arrangements.

The council added that it had helped save money by choosing to stage the lunch at Green Park - instead of the traditional chamber offices in Aylesbury.

A spokesman said this was because the chamber building was not disability compliant and the council would have had to spend money on making it such if they had insisted on hosting the event there.

Officials at Green Park had initially threatened to call the police when we turned up with the kebab trailer outside.

But we still managed to open up further down the road.

And at the end of the AGM, county council chief executive, Chris Williams, even offered a free meal to show there were no hard feelings. We declined in favour of another kebab.