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June 1 - 7 2011
μWorld News PAGES 15-17
μComment PAGES 18-21
μObituaries PAGES 22-23
μExpat Life PAGES 30-32
Shoesmith victory Baby P boss in line for £1m after her sacking is ruled illegal
Jaguar’s back with £1.1bn Record profits for the must-have British marque in China
Hay Festival David Bailey’s portraits of key people at this year’s Telegraph event
Kissinger’s world The 88 year-old is as sharp as ever, discovers Philip Sherwell
8 7 17 30 46 48 2 3 17 23 40 43
Bonus Ball 34
Bonus Ball 31
There were two winners of Saturday’s £4.4m jackpot and one winner Wednesday’s £2.4m prize
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unsustainable lifestyle bringing the country to the brink of bankruptcy.
“You have to ask why there weren’t the necessary checks and balances in place to curb what looks like a systematic abuse of public money.”
Mr Pickles has blamed Labour ministers for “living the high life” and spreading a culture of wasteful spending through the Civil Service. However, his comments on the conduct of officials now working for him are likely to prove controversial in Whitehall.
Documents obtained by this newspaper show that the councils also spent more than £2million on hotel bills, including stays at the Four Seasons in New York, the fivestar Pan Pacific in Singapore and the Athens Hilton.
Hospitality bills totalling £2.6 million were paid on the cards, including dinners at Claridge’s, hog roasts and champagne receptions, as well as tens of thousands of pounds on booking tables at award ceremonies. Another £500,000 was spent on gifts such as Tiffany jewellery, Gucci products and silk ties, while online shopping sprees racked up bills of more than £300,000 at Argos and £150,000 at Amazon.
One council even bought llamas on its credit card.
This newspaper has obtained details of credit card spending at 186 councils across the country using freedom of information laws.
Over the past three years, documents show these councils have spent more than £40million using the taxpayer-funded cards, which suggests total council spending of about £100million by all 433 local authorities. Councils agreed to release information only disclosing expenditure of over
Eric Pickles: Labour to blame
£500, potentially meaning that there was tens of millions of pounds in additional spending on lower value items or services that was not disclosed.
Last week, Whitehall officials were shocked when shown details of the credit card bills. Senior government sources claimed that a scandal on a par with MPs’ expenses may be emerging. It was not clear whether rules or laws have been broken and whether any public money could be reclaimed.
The documents show that Cornwall council was responsible for the most excessive spending, with a total bill of almost £9million, including £1,145,160 on hotels alone since 2008.
The council used its cards to fund travel to India, Thailand and Japan and spent £81,000 on hospitality and restaurant meals.
Council staff refused to explain their expenditure further when contacted by The Telegraph. In contrast, 48 councils chose not to issue credit cards while several others incurred bills running into only thousands of pounds. The rules on the cards are not clear and each council is thought to have drawn up its own guidelines.
Whitehall officials were understood to be increasingly concerned that there was little oversight on the expenditure, with few checks made on the use of taxpayers’ money.
The disclosures come as councils are shedding more than 170,000 jobs, closing libraries and cutting spending on care for the elderly. Council tax has more than doubled over the past decade as local authorities have insisted that they have struggled to maintain services.
The documents show that officials used council cards to treat themselves to iPads, Macbooks and iPhones, with more than £100,000 spent on Apple products alone. Thousands more went on shopping sprees at John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer.
The cards were used to fund leisure activities totalling more than £600,000, including theatre trips, paintballing excursions and visits to theme parks such as Alton Towers and Flamingoland.
Tens of thousands of pounds were spent across several councils on games consoles, including Nintendo Wiis and Xboxes as well as on video games such as Guitar Hero. The documents also disclose how the credit cards were used to buy a bizarre variety of miscellaneous items including beer mats, leather passport covers, dog food, breast examination kits, snow machines and jacket potato ovens.
Lewisham council in south London paid £6,000 to Swedish Body Armour, a Scandinavian company that sells protective clothing including bombproof trousers and stab vests.
Horsham council in West Sussex spent £1,150 on two llamas to graze on communal land along with a small flock of sheep. They also spent £575 on fish for a council pond.
Aberdeenshire council spent more than £3,500 on cheerleading pom-poms and more than £4,000 on professional hair and beauty products for a “hairdressing classroom” at a school.
East Lothian council, near Edinburgh, spent thousands of pounds on mountain biking accessories, which it was unable to explain, and wetsuits as well as a £500 payment for beekeeping.
Essex council spent about £4,000 on “birds for a pet barn”, a chicken run and an “incubator for the new hatchery” at Marsh Farm Country Park.
Despite being ordered by Mr Pickles to publish all spending over £500 by January, 252 of the councils contacted claimed to be unable to disclose their credit card bills when contacted by The Telegraph.
The 186 councils that replied were unable to account for more than £20,000 that had been spent on their cards, where receipts were not provided.
Last week, staff at Cornwall council said it was impossible to explain much of the spending predating April 2009, when the former county council became a unitary authority. They also failed to explain any of the spending after that date.
Accounting at the council appeared to have been so lax that officials were also unclear what currency some bills had actually been paid in.
On being questioned about one hotel bill, apparently for several hundred thousand pounds, the council claimed some of it had been paid in rupees. On the official documents, the bill appears in pounds.
By Tom Whitehead Home Affairs Editor IMMIGRATION has risen to its highest level for six years in a major blow for the Coalition pledge to cut numbers.
The number of people coming into Britain rose by almost half last year and is now close to the record levels of 2005.
It is the fifth quarter in a row that net immigration has risen, signalling a worrying trend.
Two of the main factors were a slump in departures and a sharp rise in Eastern Europeans coming to Britain for work – two areas that will not be affected by an annual cap or other measures. Figures from the Office for National Statistics last week also showed:
ŠThe number of foreign workers increased by 1.7million in the past decade and accounted for all the increase in employment levels over the period. ŠWork visas increased by six per cent in the year to March 2011. ŠAsylum claims increased by 11 per cent. ŠMigrants granted settlement in Britain increased by four per cent.
David Cameron has promised to cut net immigration, the difference between those arriving and those leaving, to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.
The Coalition has already been accused of watering down that pledge after Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, described it only as an “aspiration”.
Figures released last month showed trends were rising in every aspect of the immigration and asylum system. The office said net immigration hit 242,000 in the year to September 2010.
That was a 45 per cent increase on mid-2009 and the highest level since June 2005, when it reached 260,000.
In total, 344,000 people left Britain over the period while 586,000 arrived. The number of departures was 20 per cent lower than its peak in 2008.
The number of Eastern Europeans returning to Britain for work is rising.
Over the period, a total of 43,000 EU workers, such as Poles and Lithuanians, arrived. But in 2009, the flow was in the opposite direction, with 12,000 leaving.
Other figures showed the number of work visas granted in the year to last March increased by six per cent to 161,815. In the first three months of this year, asylum claims rose by 11 per cent, with 4,845 applications, compared with the same quarter last year.
A separate review by the office found that, between 2002 and 2011, the number of workers born overseas increased by 1.7million while the number of British workers fell by 223,000.
Over the period, employment levels rose by 1.5 million to 29.1million workers. The increase was accounted for by migrants.
The study found that one in five low-skilled jobs is now filled by foreign staff.
The Government introduced a cap on the number of migrants coming to Britain from outside the EU in April.