Members of staff used council corporate credit cards to pay for restaurant visits, make up, hair cuts, dry cleaning and outings to bars and nightclubs.
Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act showed more than £10,000 was spent in record shops, nearly £90,000 on hotels and resort stays and more than £1,500,000 on paying fines such as court fees.
Staff used corporate charge cards, known as P-cards, to buy from Pizza Hut, Top Shop and Blockbuster DVD rental, with £140.42 being spent at a battle re-enactment suppliers and £13.03 on an online social messaging game.
But don’t go getting the pitchforks and flaming torches ready just yet. It wasn’t themselves they were spending it on, oh no!
Perish the thought…
A spokeswoman for the council said the money, spent between December 2009 and April 2012, was “mostly” spent on buying necessary materials for children in care.
I really rather think that’s stretching the definition of ‘necessary’ a tiny bit too far!
Eric Pickles, local government secretary and Brentwood and Ongar MP told the newspaper the amount “strikes him as excessive”.
He said: “People at Essex County Council need to realise that it isn’t Essex’s money, it isn’t the Government’s money, it is the public’s money and the public have a right to know how it is being spent.”
He advised the council to publish all transactions online, adding: “If they do that you are not likely to get money spent on cosmetics and McDonald’s.”
Sure they will! It’s for the chiiillldreeeeen, after all…
A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: “Essex County Council has a robust policy relating to spend on P-cards and all P-card holders must be given authorisation by a senior manager to carry out such transactions.
“Like all businesses Essex County Council incurs costs which must be met and P-cards are an efficient way to do this. The P-cards are used by officers working across all the Council’s services including schools, children’s homes and our country parks.
“Essex County Council is the corporate parent for children aged 15 and under who become looked after when their birth parents are unable to provide ongoing care in either a temporary or permanent capacity.
“Our Looked After Children teams take on the role of a parent for these children and are responsible for their daily care needs while they are under the care of the County Council’s Children’s Social Services.”
Hint: ‘The role of parent’ is more than just opening someone else’s wallet to give them everything they ask for…