NEW RESEARCH: Arts Council England credit card spending revealed
May 2012 06

In the latest of a series of releases on quango credit card spending, as part of our campaign for more transparency and accountability, the TaxPayers’ Alliance today reveals new information about corporate credit card spending by Arts Council England staff during the 2010-11 financial year. Although the Arts Council England revealed a 6 per cent decline in funding of the arts in the same period, employees were still able to spend vast amounts on their corporately-settled credit cards.

The key findings of this research are:

  • During 2010-11 the Arts Council England spent more than a quarter of a million pounds on corporately-settled credit cards.
  • In 2010-11 the Arts Council spent at least £46,000 on hotel bills alone.
  • Employees and guests of the Arts Council had all the amenities of boutique, luxury and 5 star hotels. Stays included £3,700 at the Park Plaza chain, £716 on a stay at luxury serviced apartments in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival and £586 at Abode hotels in Manchester and Exeter.
  • The Arts Council spent almost £60,000 on restaurants. This included £457 for an executive board dinner at the award-winning Bills Produce Store; £483 for staff dinner at Nottingham fine dining restaurant, The Memsaab; £340 at Quirinale in Westminster – Zagat’s and Harden’s top rated Italian restaurant in London; and Iberica which received a Bibe Gourmand from the Michelin guide.
  • Arts Council employees racked up £232 at the Cinnamon Club in Westminster, known for its extensive wine list and ate at Master Chef Judge John Torode’s Smiths of Smithfield, which cost £420. Employees also spent £155 at Oddbins.
  • The Chief Executive’s Office enjoyed lunches at The Wolseley restaurant by the Ritz on Piccadilly costing £114; as well as popping in to J Sheekey, an Oyster bar in Covent Garden, where they left taxpayers with a £110 bill.
  • More than £4,000 was spent on flights and £1,500 on car hire. £8,280 was spent on parking.
  • Flights included a visit to Venice for the Venice biennale opening ceremony, £8 for Easyjet priority boarding and flights to Exeter and Brighton for meetings.
  • While on the go and away from the office, employees spent over £870 on internet access from trains to high-speed connection in hotel rooms. Arts Council employees also spent over £95 to replace Blackberry chargers and a further £60 for an office docking station.
  • Miscellaneous office expenses included an £80 Magimix kettle from John Lewis, a £60 pedal bin for the loo, £90 for non-branded lanyards and £20 for a USB fan. A grand total of £232 was spent on flowers.
  • The Arts Council spent a further £624 on office Christmas decorations, which included a tree and decorations for £60 and £80 for a stand.

Click here to view a spreadsheet with more details of spending

Emma Boon, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“It’s clear that there is a culture of excess at the Arts Council, with thousands spent on stays in 5-star hotels and staff jetting around Europe. This is on top of the millions they already spend on barmy projects like the Cultural Olympiad. There are some legitimate expenses that have been put on these cards, and they can be a good way for taxpayers to track where their money is going, but the bills must be published in full. It’s scandalous to ask hard-working families, struggling to pay their own bills, to pick up the tab for staff to dine at fancy restaurants or stay the night at luxury hotels.”

Emma is the Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance. She leads efforts to change policy through powerful campaigns and is the voice of the TPA in the media.

  • GM

    The Arts Council staying in 5 Star hotels is disgusting. They spend with no consequence, typical public sector, no accountability, no value, no end product, huge waste of money.

  • Guest

    Yet another example that all “quangos” in their current form should be simply disbanded. In normal business organisation excessive expenses are simply not reimbursed, and in many cases lead to disciplinary procedure. I think that should apply to public sector too.