Jan 2012 06

The British Council is the UK’s international cultural relations body sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As part of our campaign for better transparency and accountability in Quango spending the TaxPayers’ Alliance can reveal the full credit card spending of the British Council for the last two years.

Click here for the full breakdown of spending
(9MB Excel file)

Click here for the complete press release

The key findings are:

  • In the last two financial years the British Council has spent a total of £6.7 million on its credit cards
  • Between 2009-10 and 2010-11 the British Council spent nearly £2 million on hotel bills.
  • Staff and guests of the British Council enjoyed stays at 5 star hotels such as the Renaissance Hotel in Hong Kong, the Caesar Park in Rio De Janeiro and the Park Hyatt in Dubai.
  • During the same period the Council spent £1,085,206 on flights and £407,496 on restaurants bills.
  • The British council’s expenditure on hotels increased by £437,424 while spending on flights rose by £183,567 and restaurants by £152,402 between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
  • Over £30,000 was spent at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, which is described as “best luxury hotel in India”.
  • In the hotel’s restaurant the Spice Route, two credit card bills cost £1,376. The restaurant is famous for “having one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world”
  • Last year the British council purchased flights worth £32,845 in Belgium alone. The British Council was recently criticised for spending money on a campaign promoting EU foreign policy and culture which it ran from its Brussels office.
  • Other spending included £4,844 on the London Eye, £1,056 on a Spa-Salon in Russia, £142 on a haircut and £80 on the Yellow Duckmarine (duck tours on the Thames). The credit card was also used for items such as cinema trips, iTunes purchases and at the Body Shop.

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Taxpayers will be worried that they are being asked to support British Council bureaucrats living the high life abroad while they have to tighten their belts at home. Of course the organisation’s job is to promote Britain abroad which means it will incur travel and accommodation costs but staff need to keep these to a minimum. They need to explain many of the items bought with their credit cards which look extravagant, like the huge amounts spent at upmarket hotels. The British Council’s New Year’s resolution should be to cut these bills and be more transparent about how they spend taxpayers’ cash.”

Click here for the full breakdown of spending
(9MB Excel file)

Click here for the complete press release

Britain's independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes

  • Macaw090


    • Anonymous

      Is that because you don’t mind that our money was spent this way?

  • BlindSeer

    It is strange that you wish the British government and its bureaucrats to appear as paupers overseas. £7m seems a paltry sum to advance British standing and standards in the world.

    The most important story the TPA has had in years, massive tax evasion by huge corporates – has gone curiously underreported on this site. And I am supposed to care about the expenses bills of those who give up life in britain to advance British interests overseas?

    Your priorities are all wrong.

    • Anonymous

      But should we pay for British Council staff’s haircuts? Does your employer pay for yours and, if so, do you tell HMRC? Actually, I’d be happy if Britain portrayed a frugal image overseas. We are, after all, in deep economic trouble.

    • Roger The Dodger

      ‘Give up life in britain’…. is that an accurate description of a business trip abroad?
      when i travel on business i stay in modest hotels and have modest expenses. and i run several very successful companies. being thrifty should be the mantra for all civil servants.


    • http://profiles.google.com/sadbutmadlad Sad But Mad Lad

      There has been no tax evasion by corporates. If there was the companies involved would be in court. Evasion is illegal. At worst there has been tax avoidance. This is legal and uses the law as it has been written. Maybe not as it was designed; but the failure is in the politicians and civil servants for not drafting the laws tight enough. Having a tax law which is thousands of pages long does not help.

    • Kobi

      Yet another socialist-monkey who does not understand the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. 

    • Bcl_buster

      Get real the British Council is a complete waste of £150 million per year. The FCO and DfID reduced their allowances to staff whilst the BC kept theirs high. They also doubled the number of Executive Directors on £150k plus. Some of the Regional Directors were demoted and kept their hugely inflated salaries and £10k per month accomodation. Not to mention the tax payer funding their kids to go to schools like Westminster. 

  • http://twitter.com/ukgoldbug Gold Bug

    “Of course the organisation’s job is to promote Britain abroad…..”


    Are we a brand of tea, or a product? No I think not. This kind of woolly promotion of a country is pointless and serves only those insiders that profit from the lifestyle. The money they spend would be far better off remaining in taxpayers hands or in the bank accounts of businesses that are quite capable of promoting their own products far more effectively than a bunch of quangocrats.
    I’m surprised at the TPA for giving tacit support for this kind of waste.

  • AllanSMW

    Having worked with the British Council it has helped us do a lot of overseas as a “soft power”- not all influence is wielded at the end of a stick or barrel of a gun.  It’s a damn sight more effective than it’s foreign equivalents and helps to bring awareness that the UK is more than just a tourist destination as well as promoting English language- something we need desperately with our terrible language skills.

    We’re lucky the French equivalent has had a far weaker impact, ex-Soviets tend to push back against Russian and the Chinese are only just seeing the potential value.As to paying Hotels, Flights and meals- surely that’s more cost effective than having to raise an order form, get an invoice, authorise the invoice and send the funds- or are TPA really that backwards?

    • Bcl_buster

      How do YOU EXPLAIN UK tax payers money funding Climate Activism, skilling Chines Graduates to take UK Graduates jobs. The British Council is a HUGE JOLLY for its highly paid staff. best thing put all the Council’s work out to competitive tender.

  • Jefflins

    I don’t think anyone is saying that we should disband the British Council, but only that they do not spend our money so carelessly. £30,000 in New Delhi?  What did we get from that for God’s sake?  And £142 on a haircut??  The sheer extravagance beggars belief.  Blind Seer, it is you who have your priorities wrong.

  • Lab246

    I would be facinated to know what was bought in Primark that would promote anything British.  Football Clubs?, and £ 3,400 (two payments) on the same day for restaurants in Hong Kong.  I know the old saying about being able to eat it all over again  shortly afterwards, after having a takeaway, but I think this must have been a hell of a meal.  I would be interested to know who holds the cards, and why the payments were sanctioned.

    • AllanSMW

      Devil I expect is in the detail which TPA aren’t interested in- just the headline.  Apparently it’s fine for companies to pay out for meals, but not for the government- I’ve seen bills on credit cards for over £1000 for meals- but they there were 30 of us…
      And why order pen and pads etc when you can nip out and buy it cheaper?

  • Anonymous

    The British Council is run as a business, making plenty of money from administering English exams, for example. It simply does not need government (taxpayer) money.

  • Tmallin

    I can’t believe that in these tough times for us all these guys are spending public money in such a careless way. Lets have a public accounts committee or national audit office review straight away.

  • Johngatehouse386

    I guess most people wouldn’t know that we had a British Council let alone that it was having a lovely time spending their hard earned money.

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