By Kirsty Topping
A SCOTTISH council has been on a 820,000 spending spree with taxpayer funded credit cards, it emerged today
Staff at East Lothian Council were issued with almost 600 credit cards and used them to buy computer games, theatre trips, visits to theme parks, flights and other items totalling 818,000.
In one case, a credit card was used to send the council’s homelessness team on a 800
“away day’ to Carberry Tower, a historic mansion house near Edinburgh.
The authority’s spending also included 11,639 on video games for schools, including Guitar Hero, and consoles such as the Nintendo Wii.
A further’?4,518was spent on credit cards on tickets for shows such as Mary Poppins, We Will Rock You and Hairspray.
Other charges put on
“plastic’ included nearly 700 spent on a
“storytelling chair’, 867 on wetsuits, and 500 on beekeeping equipment.
The council even used the
“never-never’ to put three members of staff up in the Hilton Hotel, Bath, where rooms cost between 139 and 289 a night, while they went to a training seminar.
Credit card-funded plane flights included 1,660 to Prague and 1,222 to South Africa.
Only last month, it was revealed that the council’s Lady Provost, Sheena Richardson, confronted a voter in the street for questioning her expenses. It was later revealed she had spent 23,000 on transport and clothing in the last four years.
Charlotte Linacre, of the Taxpayer’s Alliance said:
“This is utterly reckless spending without thought for the consequence on other services or taxpayers.
“Some councils have a fundamental lack of regard for taxpayers’ money. It’s scandalous that councils have splurged on games, gadgets and treats. These shopaholic councils have been dishonest, claiming to be cash strapped and threatening to cut services while they know they could be cutting their own spending.
“The nation’s finances are in the red and spendaholic councils who’ve been dipping into taxpayer’s pockets to fund their own lifestyle and perks should be ashamed. “
Iain Gray, the outgoing Scottish Labour leader and MSP for East Lothian, said it was right to question the spending at a time when the council was considering cutting primary classes and bus routes.
“The public could be forgiven for questioning spending 690 of public money on a
“storytelling chair’ as recently as two months ago.
“I love telling stories to my granddaughter, but I can’t see why I’d need a 700 chair to do it. “
In a statement, East Lothian Council said 583 purchasing cards had been issued to staff responsible for ordering and paying for goods and services on behalf of the council but said the cards were not given to councillors.
A spokeswoman said:
“There are strict terms and conditions relating to their use. Any expenditure is strictly monitored and authorized by the appropriate line managers and this expenditure is subject to internal and external audit controls.
“Much of the expenditure listed is in fact repaid or reimbursed goods and services. For example, the trip to Alton Towers was an end of term school excursion with the costs recouped from parents and pupils.
“Other travel costs, for example, teachers on cultural exchanges, were refunded in full by the British Council.
“There are very strict procedures in place for the use of purchasing cards and any inappropriate use would be dealt with severely. “
The council defended their purchases saying that Nintendo DS, Xbox and Wii games consoles had recognized educational benefits, the beekeeping kit was to allow a school to take part in national eco-schools project and the storytelling chair was garden furniture bought for a school and funded by a lottery grant.