Coalition ministers spend £40,000 on potted plants

Soon after arriving in Downing Street, David Cameron singled out the cost of flowers and pot plants in Whitehall as proof of the need to root out waste in the public sector.

In his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Question Time following the election, he told MPs he was amazed to discover the flower bill at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

His axe-wielding Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, made the same headline-friendly point, announcing he was cancelling his department’s floristry bill and telling his civil servants to water their plants themselves.

The message has not filtered through to all of their Cabinet colleagues.

Despite all their warnings of tough days ahead as public spending is squeezed, the coalition Government has still paid more than £40,000 for plants and trees since taking office, the Independent can disclose.

The bill, which showed four departments spending more than £5,000, emerged from a series of Commons answers.

The biggest spender on greenery is Andrew Lansley’s Department of Health, which is seeking efficiency savings of £20bn from the NHS over the next four years. It paid £12,383.30 between May 2010 and this March for plants and trees for its “core headquarters estate”.

It was followed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which disclosed that it spent £8,975.24 with “our foliage suppliers” since the election. It added that it had scrapped its foliage contracts in September.

Although George Osborne is overseeing the austerity programme, the Treasury still managed to stump up £7,423 for “the provision and maintenance of indoor plants”.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office spent £5,516 on plants, including £3,795 for “high-profile international events” at Lancaster House, the mansion used to stage conferences, mostly recently for last week’s emergency talks on Libya.

The Northern Ireland Office ran up a £4,120.47 bill, despite stressing that it uses plants grown at Hillsborough Castle, the Northern Ireland Secretary's official residence.

Despite Mr Cameron’s admonishment, the DCMS, which has just announced heavy cuts in subsidies for arts organisations, still spent £1,859.37 on foliage.

Luciana Berger, the Labour MP who obtained the figures, denounced the spending by the Department of Health.

“I’m not averse to people having pot plants in offices. People in the civil service should work in a nice environment, but you could go to Homebase and get plants for a few pounds,” she said.

“Andrew Lansley should put his money where his mouth is – he made a commitment to cut out waste and yet his department spent £12,000 on plants. It’s excessive.”

The Department of Health said it had “significantly” cut its monthly spending on plants and trees from £1,426.96 to £598.77 when its facilities management contract was switched to a new company.

Overall the answers showed expenditure of at least £40,334 by Whitehall since the election – and the actual total could be far higher.

Several departments have so far failed to answer or refused to give a detailed response.

The Cabinet Office, which oversees spending in Downing Street, merely said the cost of plants and trees formed part of a larger contract, adding that the amount spent on “soft landscaping” represented less than one per cent.

The Ministry of Defence said: “Expenditure on plants and trees across the defence estate is determined by business need and must be appropriate, cost effective and a proper charge to public funds.”

The Home Office simply said it spent a “limited amount”, while the Department for Work and Pensions said the answer could only be supplied at disproportionate cost.

The Scotland Office worked out it that it spent £37 and the Wales Office calculated its flower bill to be just £20.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Energy and Climate Change said they had spent nothing on plants.

Predictably Mr Pickles’s department gave the same answer. It said: “Following suggestions by staff in feedback on departmental cost savings, the plants will be looked after by departmental staff on a voluntary basis.”

There was more than a little irony to Whitehall’s £40,000 flower bill – it is the same amount that Mr Pickles berated the Audit Commission for spending on plants as he condemned its alleged culture of waste.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone