Council credit card bill hits £2m

Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Town Hall

12
Have your say

PAYMENTS for fast-food, teapots and Zumba classes are among thousands of transactions placed on council credit cards, new figures have revealed.

The list, revealed by the Observer today, highlights that five-figure sums have been forked out on travel expenses, court fees and office supplies.

The wide ranging number of services which are offered by Wigan Council sometimes necessitate the use of credit cards where the speed of payment necessitates their use and it is more secure than cash

Paul McKevitt

In each of the last two years, payments have topped the £1m mark.

Town Hall bosses have said each and every purchase has been scrutinised and strict checks are in place to prevent improper use of the flexible friends.

Money spent includes £1,277 at McDonalds in 2014/15, more than £70,000 on train tickets, £2,639 at Thistle Hotel, Barbican, London, and £2,640 to Man Utd Ltd in August 2013 and numerous purchases of stainless steel teapots, including one priced at £63.90

Also revealed is the extent officers go to provide for children under local authority care with days-out and activities, such as bowling and trips to Alton Towers.

Deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt has reassured residents that use of the council’s credit cards is strictly monitored with only senior members of staff given access.

The list - totalling more than 13,000 individual purchases for each year - show that £1,015,444 was spent in 14/15 and £1,047,153 in 13/14.

It is understood that many of the transactions shown for supermarket deliveries, fast-food outlets and activities such as bowling are due to the council’s obligation to provide for children living under local authority care.

For example, spread over the two years, more than £1,500 was spent at Alton Towers and more than £2,600 at AMF bowling.

Other standout payments include:

£1,357 spent at McDonalds in 13/14, £1,277 in 14/15;

More than £70,000 was spent on train tickets;

£221 was spent at the House of Lords catering and retail services in November 2014;

£2,639 at Thistle Hotel, Barbican, London, in October 2013;

£2,640 to Man Utd Ltd in August 2013;

£518 to Thomas Cook in May 2013;

£120 spent on Zumba Fitness classes between April and September

2013;

Numerous purchases of stainless steel teapots, including one priced at £63.90.

More details on each of these highlighted purchases were not available at the time of going to press although a council spokesman did explain that officers are not permitted to purchase first-class rail tickets unless they are cheaper than standard

fare.

Regarding the hundreds of payments for court services - occasionally five-figure sums - the spokesman added: “Any individual or business has to pay fees to access court services and the council has an extensive relationship with the courts.

“The use of the credit card to pay for such services is secure and helps us to account very efficiently for the charges.”

Mr McKevitt told the Observer: “The wide ranging number of services which are offered by Wigan Council sometimes necessitate the use of credit cards where the speed of payment necessitates their use and it is more secure than cash.

“They are used in these instances for officers and service users.

“The use of council credit cards is very strictly monitored with only key managers and officers given access to their use.

“The access and use is also constantly reviewed and there are set checks in place to scrutinise every purchase.”