SBC defends £150k credit card spending

PONCHOS, sweets and costumes were among the items purchased with Scottish Borders Council credit cards, totalling almost £150,000 since 2007, writes Kenny Paterson.

The details of each departments spending have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request.

Resources racked up the biggest bill, using credit cards for £63,620 worth of purchases in the last five years.

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But education, which has an annual budget of £94million, the largest at Newtown, only spent £943 in three years.

However, SBC has defended the spending, with a spokesman telling TheSouthern: “We do not pay any interest on credit cards.”

An FoI request last year showed former chief executive David Hume’s departmental credit card had been used for transactions worth £9,000 over three financial years.

Hawick councillor David Paterson then tabled another FoI appeal which showed the directors of four SBC departments all had cards, leading the Independent member to ask why elected councillors had not been asked to sanction the use of the cards.

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The latest FoI figures show chief executive spending is now amalgamated with resources since the last financial year.

In 2011/12, resources credit card was used for a variety of purchases at different prices, from a £1,612 return flight from Edinburgh to Bristol, 5,000 text messages at £291, a Freedom of Information in Scotland book worth £57 and coffees priced at £4.20.

Previously, the department paid £34.94 for sweets for children and £72.49 for costumes in 2010.

Education’s biggest bill was training at £611 in 2008, while environment and infrastructure shelled out £900 in gift vouchers in March last year.

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Planning, which was amalgamated with environment and infrastructure in 2011/12, spent £75.89 on 10 packs of 10 disposible ponchos in 2009 and £86.04 on whistles in 2007. While social work spending on a credit card ranged from a £1.10 parking charge to two return flights from Edinburgh to Prague costing almost £500, while technical services paid £563 for St Andrew’s flags in September 2009.

An SBC spokesman said: “Credit cards are a common method of purchasing in both the public and private sector and some of the spend is recovered from external sources.

“There are guidelines for use of the card. Using a credit card is a more streamlined, more efficient and less costly way of paying for goods and services

Some discounts are only available via online purchasing and some items may only be available from online sources.”

He added that the total credit card spent for directors and departments from 2008 to 2011 was £97,000, compared to SBC’s budget of £264million for the current financial year.