ELECTED members of Scottish Borders Council played no part in sanctioning the use of a credit card on which outgoing chief executive David Hume and his department spent more than £9,000 during the last three financial years.
That was the answer from Council HQ at Newtown yesterday to South of Scotland MSP Christine Grahame after she sought an explanation of the transactions, which are not included in the £123,000 which Mr Hume, 58, earned in wages and expenses in 2010/11.
“I would like to know if Mr Hume had carte blanche when using his credit card or was this expenditure monitored,” said Ms Grahame.
“I also feel taxpayers need to know whether this extravagance was sanctioned by senior councillors who were, at the same time, grappling with the need to cut spending and ensure value for money.”
She was reacting to a response to a Freedom of Information request, demanding details of all spending by Mr Hume on a council procurement or credit card in 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11.
The list, headed “spend on credit card in name of David Hume”, itemises three pages of transactions totalling £9,019.
Transactions include a £4 ticket for the London Underground and £113 bed and breakfast in the city for a board meeting of the body representing senior local authority officers in June, 2009.
That overnight stay was discounted thanks to a £143 payment for membership of the exclusive Royal Overseas League which has luxury hotel facilities in London and Edinburgh.
In October the previous year expenditure of £620 was incurred at a visit to an award ceremony at Downing Street, including £194 for a single night’s accommodation at the London Bridge Hotel.
And in connection with a study tour which Mr Hume made to Japan in November, 2009, apart from around £300 in connecting UK flights and meals in Tokyo, the credit card registered the purchase of a £51 brooch – a gift for his host family – by Orcadian jeweller Ola Gorie.
Lesser items acquired included £9 for a mobile phone case.
Mrs Grahame claimed: “While many of my constituents are struggling to make ends meet, Mr Hume was using a corporate credit card to enjoy luxuries and pay for expensive goods. It also beggars belief that in his time as chief executive, he backed numerous campaigns to shop local, but decided to buy a brooch from Orkney as a gift.
“Mr Hume travelled to and from London with more expensive airlines as opposed to using budget companies, paid £265 for a meal for three people in a local establishment [Burt’s in Melrose] and stayed in a London hotel for one night at a cost of almost £200.”
Mr Hume is on sick leave ahead of his retirement next week, but a spokesman for SBC told us yesterday: “The purchases were in the name of David Hume.
“However, some of these purchases listed were not necessarily for his sole use and were for the benefit of the chief executive’s department and the wider council.
“For example, with regards to the Royal Overseas League membership, this is a corporate membership which allows council officers to access discounted accommodation in London.
“When booking flights to London or any other location, the council aims to secure the cheapest and most suitable flight. This obviously depends on factors such as the timing of the trip and notice period before the trip takes place.
“Although Ms Grahame highlights one example there are several other examples of the council securing flights at a lower cost with budget airlines.
“This is similar to booking hotels when factors such as the time of year play a part in the overall cost of stay. Prices ranging from £150-£200 for an average hotel in the centre of London are not uncommon.
“The brooch which Ms Grahame mentioned was purchased locally, and the £265 with regards to a meal at a local establishment also included a meeting and accommodation.
“Elected members play no part in sanctioning the use of the credit card and it is available for audit, both internally and externally.”