By Kirsty Topping
STAFF at RBS blew an estimated £4,000 on a champagne lunch – at a top hotel just a mile from their headquarters.
Up to 80 workers from the taxpayer-owned bank tucked into the meal at the four-star Norton House Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw from the bank’s multi-million pound HQ at Gogarburn, Edinburgh.
The team of bankers was spotted at the hotel by a city businessman and RBS shareholder with RBS who says that the company could have used one of their many office spaces in the capital for the event.
The complainer, whose identity has not been revealed, has written to First Minister Alex Salmond demanding an investigation into the “wasteful” lunch.
RBS, which has been 83% owned by the taxpayer since a government bailout in 2006, admitted the lunch was part of a training event held at the hotel but insisted the spending was appropriate.
The whistle-blowing businessman told a local paper: “I have sent Alex Salmond an email about this and asked him to look into it.
“There’s a saying: save a penny, save a pound, and it really upset me because their headquarters are only a mile away.”
The man said RBS had other offices nearby, including Drummond House two miles away and St Andrew Square in the centre of the city.
He said: “Surely they should have been able to find a venue within their organisation somewhere in Edinburgh.”
The man had stopped off at the top hotel, where rooms cost up to £450 a night, to enjoy a meal with his wife when he made the discovery.
“We had been in Edinburgh and stopped off for lunch at the Norton House Hotel on the way home. It’s not the cheapest hotel either; they could have picked many other places that were cheaper.
“When I saw them having lunch there I was blazing [angry] because I’m a shareholder with the bank and lost a lot of money from them.”
He added: “I even saw some members of staff with champagne. With the state the country is in, and all the cutbacks last year, it’s just unbelievable.
“Everyone in this country is a shareholder in RBS. As long as they owe money to the country they should not be spending money on this.”
The hotel charges from £42 per person for a meeting room and lunch package, meaning the training exercise and lunch cost at least £3,360.
They charge at least £35 for a bottle of champagne, meaning another bill of more than £500 if every member of the team had just one glass of bubbly.
A spokesman for RBS said: “We are focused on serving our customers and staff training is an important part of that. We always ensure costs are appropriate.”
The spokeswoman defended to choice of venue, saying that costs were “kept to a minimum” and that they “couldn’t get an appropriate facility on the dates required”.
But the angry shareholder hit back: “If a room wasn’t available on a certain date then I would have thought there were plenty of other dates they could choose.”