Thursday, 24 November 2011

Carmarthenshire Council credit card spending details

(please see part two, travel and hotels here;

I have finally had a response to my request for Carmarthenshire Council's credit card spending details, only two week's late but never mind. The response, which appears to be in full, can be viewed here;

Please download the info and have a browse through yourself to see whether you feel spending/credit card use has been appropriate. Transparency for the public was the purpose behind my request, of course. (One can only speculate as to the issues they've had with this).
I have had a fairly quick look at the figures and most seem reasonable. The total bill for purchases in 2010 was a little over £40,000, I guess 2011 will be similar. I am not particularly against the use of credit cards as long as the use is monitored and it provides a means for a quick, essential purchase and avoids lengthy waits for small local companies for payment, although there doesn't appear to be many local companies featured here.
I had previously asked for general spending figures (not credit card) to be released, but this was refused.

Amongst the items are several hundred pounds for tickets to theme parks and sporting events (rugby, naturally), however, as these seem to come under the Education and Children's Services I don't have a problem - as long as they were for the kids and not some corporate team building event for management. But then again, I've mentioned rugby tickets before. Much has been spent on books, again for educational purposes although one was for the planning department on 'Market Towns' in Wales and with their penchant for out of town supermarkets perhaps this was essential reading.

There are a couple of items I have issue with; The Press and Communications department have, over two years, paid over £3000 in subscriptions to access 'stock' photos, presumable for all manner of glossy leaflets etc. You know the ones? I also notice that £540 was spent on 'award entry fees' for the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) - don't forget these figures are spends just on the credit cards.

The second string of items which concern me are fees to attend various Solace conferences. There are seven entries in all, since January 2010, amounting to £3050.81. As you will be aware this is the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives which already enjoys government subsidy, and has been under criticism for controlling many of the appointments and large salaries of council Chief Executives. Given the information provided, I have to assume this figure does not include subscriptions, nor travel or accommodation, just conference fees for the Chief Executive and, occasionally, other staff, although this is not clear. Last year I actually contacted the Chief Executive's department to enquire whether he would be attending the annual conference and if so, how much was it costing the taxpayer as the tickets were a little steep to say the least. My enquiry was completely ignored. Oh well, looks like it's finally been answered.

Other items puzzled me such as why the Department of Administration and Law needed to buy suitcases from Argos for £55.94 - someone going somewhere? Then there was £98 for 'refreshments' at a Regeneration meeting? £23 in car park fees for an unidentified 'elected member'? £262.79 on 'magnetic pins' puzzled me for a while but it seems these are a safe alternative to drawing pins, hopefully for use in schools rather than to protect the sensitive digits of senior management. I am not sure either why Trading Standards needed to buy giant dice from Amazon for £40.90?

And, last but not least 'Improvement and Skills' spent £295 on condom demonstrators - let's not even go there....! (ok I know they were for schools - I hope they were anyway - so no jokes please)

1 comment:

Photon said...

People will always justify these things somehow, rightly or wrongly.

In the end, it wouldn't be a bad idea for authorities to remember: every little adds up...