Coalition spending revealed: Crime Agency's £336,573 outlay on Mercedes vans for 'special projects', a £27,000 parking bill at Gatwick Airport and £108,000 PR spend among Government departments’ public accounts

 

whitehall editor

It was just less than a year ago that ministers claimed the Government was starting to “manage our finances like the best-run FTSE100 businesses”.

Either they were being rather optimistic or they have a pretty dim view of how efficient corporate Britain is.

A snapshot analysis of Government spending in the first two months of this year reveals some rather large and rather surprising payments made by departments to private-sector contractors.

Under Government rules, all spending by departments over £25,000 has to be published – although not necessarily in easily accessible form. But a trawl through Excel spreadsheets reveals the UK Border Agency managed to rack up a parking bill at Gatwick Airport of £27,000 in January, and had a bill from Portsmouth City Council for £34,000.

Then there is the new National Crime Agency that in February made 10 different payments totalling £336,573 to the upmarket car and van manufacturer Mercedes Benz. No more information was available on what they got for their money as the only stated reason for the spending is just listed as “special projects”. A spokesman later added that the vehicles were “used on live operations and not personal issue”.

But other departments are far from immune from apparently extravagant spending. Over the first two months of the year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spent £47,291 on the “monitoring and evaluation” of its Green Deal scheme. Given the department’s own statistics show that only 746 households have taken up the offer to have energy-efficiency measures installed one might conclude that such an evaluation could have been done for less.

The same department then spent £14,900 on media and design services – to rebrand the Green Deal’s image. The DECC’s accounts also show a payment of £108,000 to public relations firm Freuds. Again it is unclear what the money was spent on. The department describes it as “overhead incidental expenses”.

Then there is the Department of the Environment (Defra) that spent £31,000 with the courier company City Sprint between 2-11 January for “office solutions”. Defra also spent £30,400 on “press, radio and media fees” with a firm called Arena BLM that describes itself as a “progressive agency centred around being smart and agile”.

The Ministry of Defence paid over £200,000 to the lobbying firm Bell Pottinger. The description of why the spending was needed was also vague: “The provision of independent advice and guidance related to the structure, management and operations of an organisation.” Let’s hope they weren’t getting advice on lobbying themselves.

To be fair to the Cabinet Office, that has responsibility for policing Government spending, significant progress has been made at reducing unnecessary costs – with Whitehall expected to announce savings of £10bn during the last financial year.

But sources admit that despite their best efforts, it can be a difficult task forcing individual departments to accept that not everything they pay for is worth the money.

The departments involved said all spending was in line with Government rules.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'