Pickles attacks use of council credit cards
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has criticised councils for their extravagant spending on local authority credit cards.
Mr Pickles said some councils had been enjoying the 'high life' after the Daily Telegraph published details of foreign trips, expensive meals and luxury items, which were all been paid for on credit.
According to the Telegraph,Cornwall CC had racked up a credit card bill of almost £9m since 2008, including £1.14m just on hotels.
'Now that we are forcing councils to release details of their expenditure,the culture of wild overspends and excess which became the norm under Labour,will hopefully become a thing of the past,' said Mr Pickles.
But LGA chairman, Baroness Margaret Eaton, said using such cards was'entirely appropriate and transparent'.
'The £100m spent on council credit cards in the last three years represents less than 0.03 per cent of the £350bn local authority budget over that time,' said Baroness Eaton.
'Councils are the most transparent part of the public sector, publishing details of spending in excess of £500,' she added.
'We would like to see that matched in all central government departments which, with one exception, currently only publish spending in excess of £25,000.'
The Financial Times revealed yesterday that the Department for Communities and Local Government spent more than £850,000 on credit cards in the two years before the 2010 election.
Housing minister Grant Shapps accused Nottingham City Council of misusing their credit cards last week, after it emerged that the local authority had spent £3.5m in the year 2009/10.
Lumping everyone into 'public sector' and accusing them (me included Ms Melsom!) of having a 'gold plated pension' (Daily Mail terminology) is ludicrous generalisation. What does this actually mean? No explanation? Thought not. I have paid 6% of my earnings into my pension fund for decades - the average annual logal govt pension is just under ?7,500 a year. How gold plated is that? I AM A TAX PAYER TOO, and am completely fed up with being criticised for providing for my own retirement.Julie Gibson, Added: Friday, 3 June 2011 01:15 PM
Thank goodness someone is having a look at these freespending Councils NYCC, which has been a Tory Council for donkeys years, are just as much a spendthrift as the usual Labour suspects. What is it about spending and wasting other peoples money? Included within the millions of pounds of transactions is Paintballing and Flamingoland. A high priority when they are cutting Libraries, et al?J Smith, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 08:00 PM
Why does Eric Pickles tell councils what to do? Has he not matters of national importance to occupy his time? Surely his localism agenda requires him to stop bossing local authorities. Parliament has made local authorities accountable to their own voters, not to the Secretary of State.George Jones, Emeritus Professor of Government, LSE, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 07:17 PM
David, one or two examples would do to add weight to your argument. I'm willing to listen to factual statements. I only have a closed mind when there is nothing factual to judge as in "various Public Sector departments".Ena Pickle, Retired, North Lincolnshire, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 05:06 PM
Pickles, not enough characters are allowed for me to list all the flagrant abuse and wasted time I witnessed while dealing with various Public Sector departments. You will just have to take my word for it, and, you will also have to open your closed mind.David Ashton, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 04:47 PM
So, David Ashton liaised with the Public Sector and noticed their very lax attitude which earned his contempt. I would like to nominate this as an entry for "Sweeping Statement of the Year". Perhaps if Mr Ashton could add a little clarity to his own statement one might be better able to judge whether or not he knows what he's talking about.Ena Pickle, Retired, North Lincolnshire, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 04:40 PM
I had a company credit card and it was not done to buy anything that was not strictly biz. It was not a matter of control, it was ingrained in us. For example, when on a US trip I visited a shopping mall to take home a present, I deducted a bit from the petrol for the hire car. I liaised with the Public Sector and noticed their very lax attitude which earned my contempt. Also, all our expenses were never 'luxury' expenses. We had to justify everything and even had receipts from taxi-drivers.David Ashton, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 03:56 PM
Pickles as usual doesn't understand how commercial transcations take place. Cards are used as payments of convenience and are less costly to use. They are used by council staff just as you and I would use them. Finance and internal audit depts would have put a series of checks and rules to avoid abuse. Does he really think that Councils behave as irresponsibly as MP's? My only other comment is how can the first comment exceed 500 characters?Stephen Reimer, Finance Consultant, SR Management Services Ltd, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 03:34 PM
Ms Melsom uses the words Pickles,greedy, overloaded and bloated all in the same sentence. Is there a hidden message there I wonder?Ena Pickle, Retired, North Lincolnshire., Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 03:32 PM
Credit cards - we can't have that. Let's give officers and members suitcases full of cash to spend. After all this works for some well respected international sporting organisations (allegedly).Ena Pickle, Retired, North Lincolnshire, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 03:14 PM
Obviously pickled knows better than internal audit, regional audit and the audit commission! But then he is getting rid of the audit commission, obviously we don't need them. Now, lets see the credit card bills for private companies, they would never use a penny of shareholders cash on travel and accomodation, would they! When is this idiot going?Graham, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 03:02 PM
We have heard little more from the councils than threats regarding the cuts they will be forced to make due to huge cuts in Government grant. We have been threatened with the loss of the core services, or at least cut backs. Even the lollypop lady has not come through unscathed. Many pensioners will have lost their travel tokens and many will have lost their day centres. Many councils have cut back on staff for the Sure Start initiative. Then we have this bombshell ? millions of pounds spent on credit cards, much of it by privileged people already receiving salaries far beyond those of people in similar employment in the private sector. Why have they been allowed to get away with it? Why have councillors not stopped this? Have their senior executives become so powerful that they can overrule/override? the people we voted into power? The councils have to reveal only those purchases of more than ?500 and these include huge amounts of money being paid by council executives to their own associations for conferences and for first class accommodation. I would suggest that purchases under the ceiling of ?500 would be even more telling and probably be higher than the list published. Who makes the decision to give these cards out to all and sundry? Is every bill checked at the end of each month? Do they account for every penny? If not, why not? Is the bill paid every month? If not, how much interest has been incurred? Has anyone been disciplined or sacked for misuse of these cards, which like their pensions, appear to be gold plated? How many free lunches, how many first class train tickets, how many chauffeur driven cars? It is time for the councils to reveal all. Mr. Pickles promised us when elected to Government, that he would cut out the overspending within councils, but each day the press finds something new where councillors and councils are cheating the public of their hard earned cash. We have all had to tighten our belts, except, it seems, the high earners who appear to run the councils, with superfluous councillors as their figureheads. Well, Mr. Pickles, we now look to you as the Minister for this greedy, overloaded and bloated local bureaucracy, with only its own survival in mind, to do something about it. You have made a start with the requirement to reveal all spends over ?500, but more is needed. Certainly ALL credit card transactions must be revealed including those under ?500. Make them reveal all their profligate spending, make them answerable to the public. The councillors, who also cost us millions each year, must rein in the spending of the people they employ on our behalf. I would be quite happy to do the job; I have a very good pair of sharp scissors - that?s all that would be needed.Christine Melsom, Added: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 02:55 PM
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