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Labour attitude 'culture of excess'

Labour has been accused of overseeing a "culture of excess" as the most detailed breakdown of Government spending so far was published.

Communities and Local Government (CLG) became the first department to disclose a list of all expenditure on goods and services above £500.

The material revealed that the Government Offices for the Regions ran up bills of more than £100,000 on market research and polling last year. It also spent more than £1,600 on massages for staff and £539 on an away-day trip to Blackpool pleasure beach.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: "It seems quite literally the Government Offices for the Regions were taking the taxpayer for a ride. They were living it up at the taxpayer's expense whilst thousands of households were struggling to make ends meet.

"Splashing out six-figure sums on pollsters appears to be another one of Labour's vanity projects. It's unforgivable that a culture of excess was allowed to flourish for so long."

The 1,900 items of expenditure disclosed by the central CLG department for 2009-10 total £314 million.

There was a £16 million bill for marketing, advertising, promotion and events, while £635,000 went on taxis and chauffeur driven cars, and nearly £310,000 on catering and food.

The department's quangos accounted for another £337 million. One entry for the Government Offices for the Regions - which are being abolished by the coalition - was £1,673 to Stress Angels, a company that offers on-site corporate massage.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles appealed for "armchair auditors" to help identify waste as he opened the books for scrutiny. He said his department was "leading the charge" before councils are obliged to publish similar information.

He said: "The simple task of putting spending online will open the doors to an army of armchair auditors who will be able to see at a glance exactly where millions of pounds spent last year went. The public and the press can go through the books and hold ministers to account for how taxpayers' money is being spent."


From Belfast Telegraph