Essex County Council spend £5 million on nightclubs, pizzas, luxury hotels and DVD rentals

June 21, 2012 2:31 PM

Essex County Council staff spent more than £5.1 million on their taxpayer funded credit cards in just over two years. In their on-going “war on waste” the Brentwood Gazette have delved into the credit card statements of their county council and uncovered a massive number of profligate purchases, all at taxpayers’ expense.

The purchases, made between December 2009 and April 2012, include luxury hotels, DVD rentals, cinema tickets, tenpin bowling and takeaway pizzas. Local residents are naturally demanding an explanation from their council as to how the spending increased from £220,000 between December 2009 and March 2010 to £2,700,000 in 2011-12.

Here is an extract of their spending:

  •  More than £6,000 was spent on 24 trips to Thorpe Park.

  • Six rides on the London Eye cost more than £1,800.

  • McDonalds was visited 99 times, where a total of £1,699 was spent.

  • More than £3,600 was spent on 50 visits to Domino’s Pizza.

  • 4,750 visits to Tesco cost more than £340,000.

  • 206 visits to M&S cost more than £28,000.

  • Six transactions at the luxurious, 5 star Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai cost taxpayers more than £1,300, where famous guests include: Pierce Brosnan, Steve Forbes, Bryan Adams, Chico and… Gordon Brown.

  • Council employees stayed in Premier Inns 109 times, costing £18,000.

  • Two council employees stayed at the 5 star Dorchester in London, one of the city’s finest hotels, which cost £1,405.

  • 10 transactions at Blockbuster DVD rentals cost a staggering £537.

  • Two transactions at the film poster site, starstills.com cost more than £340.


These are just a small number of the transactions made by some of Essex County Council’s 41,000 employees. For a more comprehensive list of transactions, see the Brentwood Gazette website, where they list spending at countless other hotels, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, attractions, clothes shops and coffee shops.

Despite all of the above, Essex County Council insist they have a “robust policy relating to spend on purchase cards and all purchase card holders must be given authorisation by a senior manager to carry out such transactions.” In light of this spending, Essex County Council clearly don’t have a firm enough grip on how they are using taxpayers’ money. Margaret Hodge MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee chair has already warned that the controls on the use of these cards are “not strict enough to deter and prevent inappropriate use” and Essex Council’s spending proves this.

The number of cards in use at Essex County Council has increased from 259 to 757 since December 2009 and it’s obvious that current controls are too weak to prevent staff spending too much, and on things that they shouldn't. As one of the Liberal Democrat Councillors on the Council said: “some people have some serious explaining to do.”Essex County Council staff spent more than £5.1 million on their taxpayer funded credit cards in just over two years. In their on-going “war on waste” the Brentwood Gazette have delved into the credit card statements of their county council and uncovered a massive number of profligate purchases, all at taxpayers’ expense.

The purchases, made between December 2009 and April 2012, include luxury hotels, DVD rentals, cinema tickets, tenpin bowling and takeaway pizzas. Local residents are naturally demanding an explanation from their council as to how the spending increased from £220,000 between December 2009 and March 2010 to £2,700,000 in 2011-12.

Here is an extract of their spending:

  •  More than £6,000 was spent on 24 trips to Thorpe Park.

  • Six rides on the London Eye cost more than £1,800.

  • McDonalds was visited 99 times, where a total of £1,699 was spent.

  • More than £3,600 was spent on 50 visits to Domino’s Pizza.

  • 4,750 visits to Tesco cost more than £340,000.

  • 206 visits to M&S cost more than £28,000.

  • Six transactions at the luxurious, 5 star Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai cost taxpayers more than £1,300, where famous guests include: Pierce Brosnan, Steve Forbes, Bryan Adams, Chico and… Gordon Brown.

  • Council employees stayed in Premier Inns 109 times, costing £18,000.

  • Two council employees stayed at the 5 star Dorchester in London, one of the city’s finest hotels, which cost £1,405.

  • 10 transactions at Blockbuster DVD rentals cost a staggering £537.

  • Two transactions at the film poster site, starstills.com cost more than £340.


These are just a small number of the transactions made by some of Essex County Council’s 41,000 employees. For a more comprehensive list of transactions, see the Brentwood Gazette website, where they list spending at countless other hotels, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, attractions, clothes shops and coffee shops.

Despite all of the above, Essex County Council insist they have a “robust policy relating to spend on purchase cards and all purchase card holders must be given authorisation by a senior manager to carry out such transactions.” In light of this spending, Essex County Council clearly don’t have a firm enough grip on how they are using taxpayers’ money. Margaret Hodge MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee chair has already warned that the controls on the use of these cards are “not strict enough to deter and prevent inappropriate use” and Essex Council’s spending proves this.

The number of cards in use at Essex County Council has increased from 259 to 757 since December 2009 and it’s obvious that current controls are too weak to prevent staff spending too much, and on things that they shouldn't. As one of the Liberal Democrat Councillors on the Council said: “some people have some serious explaining to do.”

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