MORE than £77,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on food and drink for Worcestershire County Council’s officers and their guests in the space of a year.
The move has been slammed by the leader of the authority’s Labour Group, Coun Peter McDonald, who said when senior officers earned £100,000 salaries, way beyond the imagination of most people, they could afford a comfortable lifestyle without dipping into the taxpayers’ pockets.
The figures related to a report for spending from 2012 to 2013.
Coun McDonald said whilst thousands were losing their jobs and services were being cut to the bone, in many instances disappearing altogether, there were a number of people living in a fantasy world eating and drinking away and receiving sustenance of more than a £150,000 in just two years.
He added taking away more than £150,000 from vital services could never be justified and left a question of confidence and competence over the ruling Tories, who allowed and condoned the practice.
“£77,000 a year would be better spent on providing youth provision, maintaining our footpaths, looking after the elderly, on education or providing services at a time of austerity instead of filling the trough for those to poke their noses in.” he said.
He added there were now six employees on £100,000 and above and 21 on £70,000 to £99,000.
“It really does beggar belief so much has been used in this way and it turns the stomach of many residents of Worcestershire.
“At the same time a great number of families of those employed by the county council and throughout the county are struggling with crippling low wages and soaring living costs.
“People have no right to enforce cutbacks, dismissals and wage freezes when they are eating away at the equivalent of three full time posts and vital resources.”
A Worcestershire County Council spokeswoman said the council was looking closely at ensuring value for money from all its budgets, including hospitality.
And, in recent years it had significantly reduced expenditure in the area by introducing much tighter rules on when meals and hospitality can be provided.
“The figures given for 2012/13 for ‘hospitality’ spend include refreshments at meetings attended by external visitors and events to support council activities, such as economic development breakfast meetings and supporting our apprenticeship scheme.
“It has also enabled promotion of the council’s ‘Open for Business’ priority through the hosting of business events for local, national and international business representatives.”