McDonalds, KFC and Dominos - the purchases on council credit cards in Cumbria


TOWN hall bosses across Cumbria have used council credit cards to buy meals at KFC and McDonalds, filter coffee for runners and bacon sandwiches for contractors, a special investigation has revealed.

Thousands of pounds of public funds have been spent on procurement cards - a form of instant payment for councils - in Cumbria in the last two years.

Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Council and Eden and South Lakeland district councils all use the cards within their organisations.

They are also used by other authorities across the country - though Carlisle City Council and Barrow and Copeland councils in Cumbria have opted not to hold any.

 Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The biggest spending on any of the cards was by the county's principle authority, Cumbria County Council, which made hundreds of purchases totaling £84,218.96 during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years.

The tally of spending includes:

:: £8,408.24 on the website Amazon

:: £23,241 at Asda

:: £866.16 at Tesco

:: £181 at Marks and Spencer

A raft of fast food outlets also appear on the list including;

:: a £37.95 bill for KFC in Barrow

:: £55.98 at McDonalds

:: £76.59 at Dominos Pizza

:: a £59.35 meal at Lau's Buffet King

However, a spokesman for the financially stricken council explained the food is likely to have been bought for looked-after children in the county.

Money was spent on activities such as Laser Quest and Tree Top Trek outings - but this would be for young people in pupil referral units.

Amazon is used by council officers for small, ad hoc purchases like cables, they added.

Spending in Asda relates to Tarn House care home in Barrow, where residents do their own shopping each week as part of their independent living experience.

The spokesman said: "A small number of services have access to corporate purchase cards. This is established practice.

"These are typically used for low value, irregular payments and offer a solution where online purchasing is the only option or where staff are working with individual service users, for example a social worker taking a looked-after child out to lunch for a meeting.

"Spending on corporate purchase cards is carefully monitored and represents a tiny fraction - around 0.02 per cent - of what the council spends.

"This is part and parcel of how the council delivers services to the public."

 Photo: DAVID HOLLINS 50087427F002.jpg

Photo: DAVID HOLLINS 50087427F002.jpg

Card holders within South Lakeland District Council used the method in April this year to purchase bacon sandwiches from Greggs costing £43.50 for contractors, while two payments made to Bargain Booze for £31.88 in October 2015 and £46.32 in May 2016 were listed simply as 'milk'.

A procurement card was also used to buy flights costing £264.69 for council officers to attend the Southampton Boat Show in June last year with airline FlyBe.

A spokesman for SLDC said: “The procurement cards are for authorised use by certain nominated officers that may have cause to use the card for convenience for legitimate purchases of generally low value goods and services for business use, such as public transport travel costs to attend meetings, stationery supplies, meeting hospitality, training costs or placing public notice advertising.

"In the specific examples noted, the purchases at Bargain Booze in Ulverston were for milk and soft drinks for events at the Coronation Hall, where refreshment costs were reflected in the ticket prices, and the spending on bacon sandwiches earlier this year was for a breakfast meeting of contractors to discuss their health and safety responsibilities while providing services for and on behalf of the council.

"The meeting was held early in the day so that the contractors did not lose too much work time and was very well attended as a result, with 28 contractors present.’’

A restaurant bill of £305.95 for a premises called Luciano's was settled by a procurement card held by Allerdale Council's corporate management team in 2015, the investigation found.

It was also used that year on the website for two purchases costing £50.14 each.

Scores of transactions of varying amounts were made over the two years in question at supermarkets Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Marks & Spencer and Asda using a card held by the chief executive's team.

 Asda Supermarket - submitted

Asda Supermarket - submitted

And in Eden, records showing spending on procurement cards held by the authority include regular purchases of filter coffee from the website - adding up to £859.55 over two years.

A spokesman for the authority explained the coffee was used at the Park Run in Penrith, with donations from runners helping to cover its cost.

"The council used the procurement card for low level transactions and for internet purchases where a procurement card can only be used," he added.

"Payments to were for the purchase of refresments for Penrith Parkrun - attended by over 100 runners each Saturday at Frenchfield Sports Centre in Penrith.

"Donations received at Parkrun pay for these purchases."

At government level, civil servants spent £1 billion on procurement cards, issued by banks including Barclay's, last year.

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, a group which campaigns against wasteful public sector spending, urged local authorities to be cautious in the way they used taxpayers' funds.

"Taxpayers will be rightly annoyed to find out that they are footing the bill for fast food and other such spending," he added.

"Some of the figures here may look like small amounts, but it represents a wider problem in too many councils.

"Council staff should remember whose money they are spending, and remember the imperative to spend it only when absolutely necessary."

No-one from Allerdale Council had responded on the matter at the time of publication.

Council credit cards: What did bosses spend - and where?

Cumbria County Council:

– Amazon £8,408.24

– £119.99

– Laser Quest £39.80

– KFC £37.95

– MacDonalds £55.98

Eden Council:

– £859.55

– Go Outdoors £718.65

– Allerdale Council:

– 2 x £50.14

– Luciano's restaurant £305.90

– Henry's Bar and Grill £37.75

South Lakeland District Council:

– Greggs £43.50

– Bargain Booze £31.88 and £46.32

– Majestic Wine £99.95

– Flybe £264.69

What are government procurement cards?

 Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

:: These cards can be issued to local authorities through banks

:: They allow authorities to make instant payments for items or purchases where an invoice is not possible

:: Their benefits include allowing council bosses to keep external payments in one place and viewable month by month

:: Interest can be accrued on the cards if the balance is not settled in full each month

Comment on this article

Generate a new code
tap   loader , mars? Saturday, 07 October, 2017 at 4:36PM
Bunch of Turpins in the making,without the need of masks and the flintlocks!
Reply to this comment

Generate a new code
Ricky   Fowler , East End Saturday, 07 October, 2017 at 9:45AM
Much ado about not a lot. Procurement cards are also extensively used in the private sector. The question is surely whether the transactions are legitimate rather then focusing on the supplier. The article provides zero evidence of inappropriate expenditure, just throwing mud based on who the payments are to
Reply to this comment

Generate a new code
David   Mcgurty , Carlisle Saturday, 07 October, 2017 at 7:05AM
Who cares
Reply to this comment

Generate a new code
Comments not OK? Click here to let us know
Read this..