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
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
:: £23,241 at
:: £866.16 at
:: £181 at
A raft of fast food outlets also appear on the list including;
:: a £37.95 bill forin Barrow
:: £55.98 at
:: £76.59 at
:: a £59.35 meal at
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
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 lovebrewing.co.uk 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
And in Eden, records showing spending on procurement cards held by the authority include regular purchases of filter coffee from the website nextdaycoffee.co.uk - 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 nextdaycofee.co.uk 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.
Cumbria County Council:
– Amazon £8,408.24
– Ancestry.co.uk £119.99
– Laser Quest £39.80
– KFC £37.95
– MacDonalds £55.98
– nextdaycoffee.co.uk £859.55
– Go Outdoors £718.65
– Allerdale Council:
– lovebrewing.co.uk 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
:: 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