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£7,400 for quango Christmas parties


Celebrations marred by violence

Celebrations marred by violence

Celebrations marred by violence

Three health quangos expect to spend more than £7,400 of taxpayers' cash on Christmas parties, official figures show.

Labour MP Steve Rotheram challenged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reveal planned spending on Christmas cards, postage, parties, decorations and trees in 2014 by his department and its agencies and non-departmental public bodies.

Regulator Monitor's £4,695.50 earmarked for parties was the highest among the figures provided by Health Minister Dan Poulter.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's (Nice) planned spend on Christmas parties was £1,556 while the Human Tissue Authority expected to pay £1,155, bringing the combined party spending to £7,406.50.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre, which has roles including collecting and analysing data and managing IT systems, expects to spend £200 plus VAT on decorations and trees.

Addressing the Department of Health, Mr Poulter said: "The department has identified there is no planned expenditure set aside to fund Christmas cards, postage and parties in 2014.

"For decorations and trees, as separately identified from our facilities management suppliers (EMCOR), there are no plans to purchase Christmas decorations or trees from them."

The written parliamentary question from Liverpool Walton MP Mr Rotheram is among the festive enquiries submitted to Government departments by Labour MPs.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said his office bought a discounted Christmas tree from Argos using their own money.

In reply to a question from shadow cabinet office minister Lucy Powell, Mr Maude said: "Refreshments for Christmas celebrations were funded by ministers and/or officials - and were not at taxpayers' expense.

"The Cabinet Office has paid £80.50 for decorations and a central Christmas tree in the main building of 70 Whitehall. Cabinet Office also contributed towards the cost of the Christmas tree for the building it shares with HM Treasury.

"In addition, my office purchased at personal expense a discounted Christmas tree from Argos."

Shadow culture minister Chris Bryant was told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will not purchase any Christmas trees in 2014.

Shadow cabinet office minister Jon Ashworth has asked Government departments which individuals, companies and other organisations they send Christmas cards to.

For the Home Office, minister Karen Bradley replied: "The Home Secretary and other Home Office ministers send electronic Christmas cards to a range of individuals and organisations involved in cutting crime, reducing immigration and preventing terrorism.

"I wish the honourable member a Merry Christmas too."

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby claimed taxpayers would be "furious" that their money is being "frittered away in such a careless fashion" on parties.

He said: "With a £90 billion deficit to bring down, this kind of spending has to be wiped out as every penny spent on festive jollies is a penny taken away from doctors, nurses and patients."

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