The revelations in today's Telegraph about Cornwall Council's credit card spending are quite incredible. It's clear that Alec Robertson and the Tories simply haven't got a grip on how Cornish taxpayers' money is spent at a time when our budgets are being slashed.
The Daily Telegraph has exposed almost £9 million of credit card spending by the Council on an extraordinary range of items from hotels and flights to fish tanks and disco equipment.
Cornwall clearly uses the corporate credit card to pay for a lot more than most councils and many of the payments will be for run of the mill authority expenditure. But when you read about hotel bills of over £30,000 or Cabinet Members taking £3,000 flights or spending £6,000 on Swedish hotels, you start to see how remote the Council’s leadership has become from the world outside. They have some serious explaining to do.
However legitimate some of the trips were, there is no excuse for paying more than £600 for a flight to Brussels when Eurostar can get you there for less than a quarter of the cost, or for paying more than £500 per night for a hotel. (They probably used the minibar.)
Most workers in Cornwall are seeing their pay frozen or cut at the moment and Cornwall Council is laying off hundreds of workers. Yet the chiefs on the top floor at County Hall are splurging taxpayers' cash on travel, hotels, home cinema systems and even £1,000 on ‘pure silk ties’.
It really is time the Tories, instead of merely posturing about keeping Council spending under control, decided to get a grip on this astounding level of expenses on the taxpayer’s credit card.
Lib Dems on the Council are seeking an urgent meeting with the Council Leader and Chief Exec to find out what on earth is going on. I've also written to the chair of the finance scrutiny committee asking him to ensure that this is considered as an urgent item at the meeting this coming week.