Taxpayers' cash spent on hotels and massages

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Indy Politics

Civil servants spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on luxury hotels, M&S lunches, away days and staff massages last year, newly-released figures show.

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) paid out far more on consultants and outsourced work, with IT, market research and advertising accounting for a large chunk of its budget.

The biggest amount, £69.87 million, was paid to Airwave Solutions for mobile communications services for the nation's fire and rescue services.

The next largest payment was £21.76 million to the Ordnance Survey mapping agency, followed by £17.29 million to Land Securities Properties, the UK's largest commercial property company.

Details of 1,913 items of expenditure over £500 made by the core DCLG in 2009-10, totalling £314 million, were published today with a breakdown of another £337 million of spending by the department's biggest quangos.

Among the eye-catching entries in the DCLG accounts are £12,948 for catering at Manchester United, £782 for an event at Exeter Racecourse, £2,500 for food provided by the Muslim Council of Great Britain and £500 spent at Majestic Wine Warehouse.

The Rubens at the Palace 4-star hotel, located opposite Buckingham Palace and around the corner from the DCLG offices, was clearly popular with the department's civil servants.

A total of £21,692 was spent there last year, made up of £16,959 for events, £1,999 on food, £932 for accommodation and £1,801.20 for "learning and development services".

The department also spent £5,145 on an event at the 5-star Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London

Out of the £9.14 million that went on "learning and development services", £13,450 was paid to the Quilliam Foundation, which was co-founded by former Islamists and describes itself as the world's first counter-extremism think tank.

Some £109,851 was spent on human resources consultancy, including £1,483 to a company called Psychology in Business (UK) Ltd.

And £31.2 million went on research, including £4.38 million to polling company Mori and £62,233 to the Board of Muslim Scholars.

The figures suggest that staff at the Home and Communities Agency have a taste for luxury hotels.

The quango, which promotes affordable housing and community regeneration, spent £4,475 at the Hotel du Vin boutique chain and £4,552 at Malmaison hotels in 2009-10.

Another £5,003 went on stays at luxury 4-star spa retreats in the Shire Hotels group, while £2,826 was spent at Colwick Hall Hotel, a grade II* listed manor overlooking Nottingham racecourse.

The West Country also proved popular, with staff spending £1,782 at the 4-star Rougemont Hotel in Exeter and £963 at the "comfortably chic" Old Quay House overlooking the waterfront in Fowey, Cornwall.

The Home and Communities Agency paid £49,238 for accommodation at Dolphin House, serviced apartments set in "idyllic" gardens along the River Thames in central London that were previously home to dignitaries including French leader General de Gaulle.

Out of the total £222,179 spent by the agency on overnight stays last year, some £110,419 went on unnamed hotels reserved through corporate booking agency Expotel.

The accounts also disclosed that the Government Offices network of regional agencies around the country - which are being abolished by the coalition Government - paid £1,673 to Stress Angels, a company that offers on-site corporate massage.

They also spent £539 on an away-day trip to Blackpool pleasure beach and £626 on a visit to the Attenborough Nature Centre near Nottingham.

In the "learning and development services" category, the Government Offices gave £2,000 to an organisation called Getaway Girls, which helps young women build their confidence, and £24,750 to Jean Kelly Consultancy, which specialises in "bullying and harassment investigations".

Another £14,527 went to Love2reward, which runs incentive schemes for employees and customers.

The figures released today also show that:

* Staff at the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation enjoyed £4,270 worth of food from the Marks & Spencer lunchtogo range of catering delivered directly to offices.

* The DCLG paid £6,325 for The Economist, which at current rates would pay for 62 UK subscriptions to the highbrow current affairs magazine.

* The department's bill for promotion was £1.52 million, including £203,333 for Media Moguls, the UK's "leading ethnic marketing and PR agency".

* Planning inspectors claimed £1.88 million for travel and subsistence, while the same cost for administrative staff came to £146,206.