Cash-strapped county council splashes out on luxury candles and takeaways - The Leamington Observer

Cash-strapped county council splashes out on luxury candles and takeaways

Leamington Editorial 30th Aug, 2019 Updated: 30th Aug, 2019   0

LUXURY candles, wetsuits, takeaways and driving lessons are among items bought on so-called corporate credit cards by cash-strapped Warwickshire County Council.

The authority has been forced by the government to make savings of some £100million since 2010 with more still set to be slashed from its budget. Jobs and services have been cut and residents have been hit by inflation-busting council tax hikes in the past two years.

Despite this a Freedom of Information request by the Observer has revealed nearly £2million was spent between 2016 and 2018 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 with emergency housing supplies, plenty was spent on items which could raise an eyebrow among taxpayers.

This included more than £11,000 on Apple products, £1,700 on wetsuits for the council’s outdoor education centre in north Wales, £500 on Dyson fans, £600 on glow sticks, and nearly £370 on luxury Jo Malone candles.

Other expenditure included stays at boutique London hotels and at Pontins, and £230 spent at Chesford Grange Hotel.

The cards were used to pay for a trip which saw two staff carry out a parenting assessment in the Philippines at a cost of more than £1,500. Some £1,700 was also spent with airline Virgin Atlantic.

Other items included takeaways from fish and chip shops, Papa Johns and Dominos pizza, free driving lessons for care leavers and asylum seekers, drones, magazine subscriptions and lava lamps, to name a few.

A further £3,800 was spent on a ‘pirate trail’ at Ryton Pools, which included vaping fluid.

Purchases also included items from Build a Bear workshop and a computer game shop, £1,000 worth of Kindles, personalised mugs, a £75 knife rack and £650 of ‘ethically sourced high performance outdoor wear’.

Items bought for refurbished events venue Old Shire Hall in Warwick included furniture from John Lewis and Jo Malone candles.

But the council insisted its spending was responsible and provided good value for county households.

A spokesman told the Observer: “Warwickshire County Council has 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 rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure this happens and the authority sets the highest 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, some purchases on procurement cards can outwardly seem anomalous or strange, but are in fact, directly related to achieving the organisation’s key strategic objectives.”

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