Whitehall fails to turn over a new leaf when it comes to waste

April 04, 2012 4:26 PM

Spring has sprung, and that means big bills for fresh flowers in Whitehall. The Times reported(£) Tuesday that in the past year, thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent by Government departments on plants and flowers. The Ministry of Justice topped the list of offenders, spending £14,000 on greenery in the past year alone – a “very minimal” amount, according to Secretary of State Kenneth Clarke. Others include:

  • Between May 2010 and March 2011, the Department of Health spent £12,383.80 on plants and trees

  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £4,527.26 on flowers since May 2010

  • Last year, the Northern Ireland Office spent £2,994 on cut flowers alone, and an additional £1,960 on pot plants


Flowers may be a nice touch but this level of spending is excessive, particularly as these departments should be focused on finding savings and delivering value for money.

Unfortunately, the waste does not stop there. Another area of incredibly high unnecessary expenditure is on taxis and hospitality. These issues are nothing new – we published a paper on the misuse of taxis in 2009. The Ministry of Justice is again near the top of the list, spending £460.29 on taxi fares for ministers in the past 6 months alone. A few more examples:

  • Jeremy Hunt’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has spent £51,295 on refreshments

  • £219,700 of taxpayers’ money was spent on hospitality in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spent £1,132 on taxis for ministers in the past four months, and an additional £28,858 on taxis for officials

  • Addison Lee and Raffles enjoys a £151,990.60 contract with the Foreign Office

  • The Home Office spent £165,927.73 on taxi fares for its officials.


The Government continues to disappoint the taxpayers that voted them into office. Despite promises to make “reductions in discretionary spending, including travel, expenses, advertising, consultancy and office supplies.” this latest report shows that this has not been the case. In fact, only about 25 per cent of planned cuts have taken place so far, according to Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary. This is an exasperatingly low figure; one would think that two years should be ample time to make significant savings.

Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing such an egregious bill for taxis, trees and tulips.  Ministers are always talking about a new era in Whitehall, it is about time they started to practice what they preach. Whitehall still needs to make some serious savings, and fresh flowers simply are not essential.  They need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on cut flowers, and try their hand at cutting costs.Spring has sprung, and that means big bills for fresh flowers in Whitehall. The Times reported(£) Tuesday that in the past year, thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent by Government departments on plants and flowers. The Ministry of Justice topped the list of offenders, spending £14,000 on greenery in the past year alone – a “very minimal” amount, according to Secretary of State Kenneth Clarke. Others include:

  • Between May 2010 and March 2011, the Department of Health spent £12,383.80 on plants and trees

  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £4,527.26 on flowers since May 2010

  • Last year, the Northern Ireland Office spent £2,994 on cut flowers alone, and an additional £1,960 on pot plants


Flowers may be a nice touch but this level of spending is excessive, particularly as these departments should be focused on finding savings and delivering value for money.

Unfortunately, the waste does not stop there. Another area of incredibly high unnecessary expenditure is on taxis and hospitality. These issues are nothing new – we published a paper on the misuse of taxis in 2009. The Ministry of Justice is again near the top of the list, spending £460.29 on taxi fares for ministers in the past 6 months alone. A few more examples:

  • Jeremy Hunt’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has spent £51,295 on refreshments

  • £219,700 of taxpayers’ money was spent on hospitality in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spent £1,132 on taxis for ministers in the past four months, and an additional £28,858 on taxis for officials

  • Addison Lee and Raffles enjoys a £151,990.60 contract with the Foreign Office

  • The Home Office spent £165,927.73 on taxi fares for its officials.


The Government continues to disappoint the taxpayers that voted them into office. Despite promises to make “reductions in discretionary spending, including travel, expenses, advertising, consultancy and office supplies.” this latest report shows that this has not been the case. In fact, only about 25 per cent of planned cuts have taken place so far, according to Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary. This is an exasperatingly low figure; one would think that two years should be ample time to make significant savings.

Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing such an egregious bill for taxis, trees and tulips.  Ministers are always talking about a new era in Whitehall, it is about time they started to practice what they preach. Whitehall still needs to make some serious savings, and fresh flowers simply are not essential.  They need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on cut flowers, and try their hand at cutting costs.

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