Government buys card spending ‘outrageous’, Labor claims

A “lavish culture of spending” in Whitehall has led to taxpayers’ money being wasted on luxury items, Labor claimed after an analysis of the use of government procurement maps (GPCs).

Labor expressed concern over restaurant and alcohol purchases, including nearly £345,000 by Foreign Office (FCDO) officials in 2021 under the heading “restaurants and bars”, entertainment and proof of year-end spending to budgets to make up.

Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner said the investigation into the use of GPCs revealed an “outrageous catalog of rubbish”.

The party has compiled a file on the use of the maps which showed that a total of at least £145.5 million was spent on the use of GPCs in 2021 for 14 major Whitehall wards.

That figure was higher than £84.9 million in 2010/11 in the comparable divisions, although about £20 million of the difference could be explained by inflation.

Tory sources pointed out that Labor introduced “civil service credit cards” in 1997, claiming that the party’s use of parliamentary questions to find out details for its dossier on GPC use had cost more than half a million pounds.

Labour’s work examined key Whitehall departments, apart from the Ministry of Defence, which the opposition claimed had not provided sufficient comprehensive data.

The file revealed:

– In 2021, £3.3 million was spent at Banner, £1.51 million at Amazon, nearly £415,000 at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, nearly £238,000 at Ikea, nearly £106,000 at John Lewis and over £101,000 at Apple.

– The largest single supplier was BFS Group, supplier of food to the prison service, with a turnover of over £500 worth a total of £54.9m.

– On March 30, 2021, while Rishi Sunak was Chancellor, the Treasury spent £3,393 purchasing 13 fine art photographs from The Tate Gallery to hang in the department’s Horse Guards Road building, despite government departments having access to the photos from the Government Art Collection.

– Foreign Office GPCs were used to buy £23,457 worth of duty-free supplies from Dubai-based International Diplomatic Supplies, presumably for use by British embassies abroad, but in the first 10 months of 2022 that level of spending rose more than four times higher, to £95,834.

Public order bill

Suella Braverman and guests spent nearly £114 per head at The Cinnamon Club restaurant in Westminster (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Several departments appeared to be using GPCs to exhaust their budgets at the end of each financial year, including the Department of Health and Social Care which spent £59,155 on stationery in March 2021, compared to just £1,470 the rest of the year combined and the Treasury spent £90,596 on training in March 2021, compared to an average of £38,357 in the other 11 months of the year.

– Then, in May 2022, Attorney General Suella Braverman and her Ukrainian counterpart, along with six others, visited the fine dining Indian restaurant The Cinnamon Club in Westminster for £909 – just under £114 per person.

– Between January 2021 and June 2022, the FCDO spent £36,293 on Royal Crown Derby fine china items and £15,943 on items from the Royal Collection online shop, presumably to gift to overseas counterparts.

– From January 2021 to June 2022, the FCDO spent £11,853 at the upscale store Fortnum and Mason.

Labor Party Conference 2022

Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was critical of spending (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ms Rayner said: “Britain may be facing its worst cost-of-living crisis for decades, but whether chancellor or prime minister, Rishi Sunak has failed to contain the culture of overspending in Whitehall to get.

“Today’s shocking revelations lift the lid on an outrageous catalog of waste, with taxpayers’ money being squandered in every part of the government, while in the rest of the country, families are ailing with worry whether their paycheck will be their next weekly shop. will cover. or the next tranche of bills.

“A Labor government will crack down on waste, with an Office of Value for Money that maintains transparency and high standards across all government spending, including government procurement cards.”

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry, who was behind many of the parliamentary questions used to expose the details, said: “If you were to go by the government spending revealed in this report, you would think that in the last days we of Rome, were not the worst of a cost-of-living crisis for decades.”

GPCs are the preferred government method of purchasing low-value goods or services, with the advantage of providing fast payments for small and medium-sized businesses.

The rules on using GPCs were relaxed at the start of the Covid pandemic, allowing individual cardholders to spend up to £20,000 per transaction and £100,000 per month, and allowing the use of GPCs for all spending categories.

The Tories pointed out that the information in Labour’s file was public and stressed that Conservative governments had introduced transparency measures.

A senior Conservative source said: “Inconveniently for Labor HQ, they have forgotten they introduced these ‘civil service credit cards’ in 1997.

“By 2010, Labor was spending nearly £1 billion of taxpayers’ money on everything from dinners at Mr Chu’s Chinese restaurant to five-star luxury hotels.

“The Conservatives quickly stopped their absurd debauchery, reduced the number of cards, introduced a requirement for public spending and introduced controls.

“Usually Labour’s ‘big idea’ is to spend millions to set up another quango, cram it with thousands of bureaucrats and give them gold-plated pensions.”

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