LUXURY meals, iPhones, takeaways and intensive driving courses have all been bought by cash-strapped Warwickshire County Council in the past year.
The authority recently announced it must save £67million over the next three years. The cuts are expected to mean jobs and services will be lost. Council tax is also expected to rise.
But despite this nearly £1million was spent on the council’s procurement cards – also known as corporate credit cards – which enable key members of staff to purchase essential items.
While much of the money went towards the likes of supporting vulnerable people through emergency housing payments, plenty was spent on items which could raise an eyebrow among taxpayers.
These include a £270 meal at the Saxon Mill in Warwick, £350 on office plants, a £90 pair of Wellington boots, a £1,000 intensive driving course and more than £3,000 on Apple products.
Nearly £24,000 was spent on hotel rooms for staff and more than £15,000 went on Facebook advertising. A further £1,500 was spent on Halloween supplies for schools – which included spooky lollies and an ‘animatronic cocooned man’.
Other items funded on the card include takeaways from fish and chip shops, McDonalds and Dominos pizza, online and supermarket shopping, magazine subscriptions, relaxation cds, selfie sticks and lava lamps to name a few.
A council customer’s flights to India which cost £1,300 and a trip to Poland totalling nearly £2,500 were also paid for on the card.
Other purchases included aroma oils; a Tangle Teezer hairbrush; an Amazon Prime membership; contact lenses, kayaks costing £4,000; £1,800 worth of chopping boards; and airhorns costing £155.
But the council insist their spending is responsible and good value for county households.
A spokesman told the Observer: “Warwickshire County Council have incredibly robust procedures in place to ensure that public money is spent in a way that is both responsible and represents the best value for the council tax paying public. There are numerous checks and balances in place to ensure this happens and the authority takes it very seriously when any staff fall short of these necessarily high standards of financial conduct.
“The council is a hugely diverse organisation offering services that range from social care to schools, road gritting, forestry and library services. As a result of this, purchases on procurement cards that can outwardly seem anomalous or strange – such as charges that can be incurred in ensuring that vulnerable young people are safeguarded from harm or for meeting educational needs of young people in schools – can be seen to meet key organisational strategic objectives.”