Council staff have spent a staggering £80,000 on authority credit cards over the past two years, we can reveal.
Documents obtained by the St Helens Reporter reveal workers using the council’s ‘flexible friend’ to pay for a host of big ticket items.
Transactions include forking out for splash-up meals in French restaurants and stays in plush hotels.
But the figures also provide a glimpse into the extent to which staff often go above and beyond the call of duty by paying for children under council care to go on summer breaks and taking children whose parents foster on days out.
A council spokesman said use of credit cards was subject to strict controls and payments were managed to ensure interest is never paid on transactions.
The spokesman added: “Only a few officers having access to them. Guidance is given to every card holder that transactions entered on the card will only be those were the use of official orders would prove inoperable or where it can be demonstrated that genuine financial efficiencies may only be achieved by transacting by this method.
The use of cards is checked regularly to ensure that their utilisation fits these criteria. The payment of the council’s credit cards is also managed efficiently to ensure interest is never paid on any of the transactionsTown hall spokesman
“The use of cards is checked regularly to ensure that their utilisation fits these criteria. The payment of the council’s credit cards is also managed efficiently to ensure interest is never paid on any of the transactions.”
In clarifying the reasons behind some of the payments, town hall bosses highlighted their responsibilities to provide for children under the council’s care.
A statement explained: “We spend money on the same things that any parent would, for example, taking a child on a summer holiday.”
Likewise, the day out at Darkstar Laser was part of the council’s “support group for the birth children of foster carers (that) means they can share experiences with children in similar circumstances. Foster carers play an important role in providing a family environment for children in the council’s care.”
On the hotel fees for the LGA conference, the council said it was cheaper to pay for the rooms “via the hotel’s website (rather) than via usual procurement channels.”
In 2013, a total of £52,933.67 was charged to the town hall credit cards with 30,637.71 in 2014.