Saturday, 28 May 2011

Wish You Were Here: Cornwall Councillors' Freebies

The Daily Telegraph has used Freedom of Information laws to glean details of credit card spending at 186 councils across Britain.

Documents show that over the past three years, these councils have spent over £40 million using the taxpayer-funded cards, suggesting a total of say £100 million across all local authorities.

But despite calls for detailed data, all the councils contacted agreed only to release information disclosing spending on individual items of over £500. There could be tens of millions of pounds in additional lower value spending which isn't visible to us. It's not yet clear whether rules or laws have been broken or whether any public money can be reclaimed, but another MPs-expenses style scandal may be about to emerge.

The documents show Cornwall Council was responsible for the most excessive spending, with a total credit card bill of almost £9 million including a staggering £1,145,160 on hotels alone since 2008.

The Council has used its cards to fund staff trips to Goa, India, Thailand and Japan, while £81,000 has been spent on hospitality and restaurant meals.

When contacted by the Telegraph, Cornwall Council staff simply refused to explain their expenditure.

The Council's extravagance shows itself in other ways. Its Chief Executive, Kevin Lavery, is one of the thirty highest-paid in the country. Lavery's £230,000 salary, pensions and expenses package puts him in the top 10% of local authority executives. He's said to be "satisfied."

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