£100k on council credit cards spent on ‘fancy pants’, cinemas and restaurants

Dacorum Borough Council is now based at The Forum
Dacorum Borough Council is now based at The Forum
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Council bigwigs blew more than £100,000 on council credit cards last year – with purchases at restaurants, party shops and a ‘fancy pants’ store included on statements.

Just 12 members of staff who are authorised to carry a council credit card were responsible for the spending spree.

More than £37,000 of the total figure was wracked up by the council’s team leader for income management, which included £75.70 being spent at Empire Cinemas – now the town’s Cineworld cinema – and £64.30 being spent at ‘A Party Shop’, a store in Apsley selling party supplies and fancy dress costumes.

The fancy flashing of cash didn’t stop there, as the council’s team leader for strategic housing property spent £91.95 at a women’s ‘ready to wear’ clothes store called Fancy Pants in March 2016.

Two months earlier, the same credit card had been used to spend £223,79 at American dining restaurant Coast to Coast.

The Gazette has seen statements for all 12 workers, some of which have monthly spend limits of up to £10,000 on the Barclaycard accounts.

The total sum for statements from January 2016 to December 2016 was £100,167.56.

The council’s group manager for commissioning, procurement and compliance spent £3,265 in one swoop at Hillier Garden Centre in July, as well as £1,187 on services on business connection website LinkedIn across two months.

Council chief executive Sally Marshall was also issued a credit card, but the vast majority of her £1,409 spending was dedicated to transport and hotel stays, although she did spend £56.50 at an Indian restaurant in Bournemouth in July.

Mrs Marshall was the second lowest spender of the 12 employees, with the lowest being the £776.70 spent by the team leader for strategic housing and property – but it did include the transactions at restaurant Coast to Coast and women’s clothing store Fancy Pants, as well as spending £20.50 at the Farm House pizza takeaway in The Marlowes Shopping Centre.

Large sums were also spent on cards at supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Iceland.

One credit card, used by the lead officer for adventure playgrounds, spent £2,647,51 at supermarkets within the last 12 months.

The Gazette asked if it was appropriate for council credit cards to be spent at stores including garden centres, fancy dress stores, women’s clothes retailers and cinemas.

The council’s statement ignored those questions, but in a statement to the Gazette, James Deane, who is the corporate director for finance and operations, said: “Dacorum Borough Council has now introduced an Electronic Payment Card (EPC) scheme to reduce the processing costs associated with purchasing goods and services.

“We have fully robust and well-established purchasing processes in place to audit spending and prohibit certain transactions.”

Responding to the information, leader of the opposition, Councillor Ron Tindall, said: “I found the information from the Gazette interesting, and I will certainly ask questions at the next opportunity I have at a council meeting.”