Council Credit Card – Your Flexible Friend

Breath-taking is the two words that I would use on reading the Daily Telegraphs investigation into spending by councils on credit cards. Sadly Cornwall Council has in many areas been singled out for excessive spending in areas like restaurants, hotels and gadgets. The investigation covers three years, so it not only covers Cornwall Council, but the now defunct County Council.
Since this morning I have been going though the figures to make sure these figures are not made up. The more I studied it soon came apparent of the sheer scale of spending. I was, and still am, dumbstruck. Granted a lot of the spending I can understand as it is normal council business. I do wonder why we pay South West Water by credit card. They are not the only utility service that is paid this way, so this must be standard practice.
The total spend for the last three years is £8,973,444 which includes £1,145,160 spent on Hotels, £26,543 on food, £31,734 on drink, £82,127 on hospitality and £905,384 on travel. To be fair, it is not all Cornwall Council’s spend, as a further breakdown reveals they are only responsible for 598 days which equals to £5,968,716. The former County Council is responsible for 489 days, totalling £3,004,063. It is a small consolation to the current administration, but I thought it was worth pointing out.
The use of Hotels is staggering, but I can’t believe all are down to staff or Councillors, as a lot of the costs are coded to SCH, which I believe is schools. I mean would we really be spending £6751 on a Bangkok hotel, or £60,000 on the Hotel Opera in Madrid? Still, there are numerous charges from different departments to the Sands Resort, Atlantic Hotel, Lanhydrock Golf Club, Bedruthan Steps Hotel and Alverton Manor which are not down to schools.
The tourist attractions of the UK have also been well used with destination like Thorpe Park, Longleat, and the London Eye being paid for by the corporate credit card. In November 2010 (billing date) £11,545.65 was spent on various theatrical tickets which included Bristol Old Vic, Royal National Theatre, Hall for Cornwall and London Theatre Directory. Again, I am sure there is a perfectly plausible explanation.
The one area that there is no excuse or possible explanation is for restaurant bills. For instance in March this year a whopping £1,080 was spent at the Sea Food Restaurant of Rick Stein fame and in May, £1269 was spent at the One-Eyed-Cat. The Plume of Feathers and Victoria Inn also had the corporate card swiped though their card machine with £500 and £748 spent in the two establishments. There are many other forms of catering charges listed. A lot of these are at the very same Hotels as I listed before, and the totals amounts to many thousands.
When I am next over at County Hall I will be looking for people wearing silk ties, as £1000 was charged for ties to the credit card, or the home cinema system which is no doubt next to the wii consoles. I might even look for the fish-tank which if the current spending indicates will no doubt be full of rare and exotic fish.

I could go on, and list many other things, but if you’re like me it will just make you angry. I am reminded of the old advert for the Access credit cards – Your flexible friend. That saying sure has meaning at Cornwall Council.

The other point to note is all these details are only for spending OVER £500. Just imagine what was spent under this threshold.

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