17 October 2011

LGA chief defends council bosses’ ‘astonishing’ expenses

Council chief executives use of personal expenses are ‘part and parcel’ of the jobs, chief of the Local Government Association John Ransford has said.

Mr Ransford defended council bosses following an Freedom of Information investigation of 340 authorities by the Daily Telegraph which showed local authority chief executives had, since 2008 charged £2.6m expenses to corporate credit cards, around £1.2m since May 2010.

Breaking the figures down, the Telegraph reported that £340,000 was spent on hotel accommodation, £206,000 charged to bars and restaurants and £61,000 spent international travel.

John Ransford pictureJohn Ransford: Council chief executive’s job can involve stays in hotels and the proportionate use of hospitality.

Quirkier items of individual spend included Liverpool City Council chief executive, Colin Hilton, spending £1,152 on tickets for a concert by pop band Coldplay.

In defence, John Ransford said ‘It is part and parcel of the job that they have to travel to meet top people from the public and private sectors, and this can involve stays in hotels and the proportionate use of hospitality.’

But communities secretary Eric Pickles said he found it ‘astonishing’ that some council chiefs thought this spend was appropriate.

‘These revelations reinforce the need for stringent controls of the government procurement card to ensure the taxpayer never has to foot the bill again for what appears to be a systematic abuse of public money,’ Mr Pickles said.

The body representing council chief executives, Solace, recently published a statement outlining the scope and importance of the role, admitting that it was 'not well undertsood'.

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