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Spending watchdog hotel bills 'shocking'
Mon, 02 May 2011 12:13:50 GMT
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Britain's state spending watchdog has raised eyebrows after revelations that it spent more than £1,000 a day to accommodate its staff in central London hotels for the past two years.

The Audit Commission, which is in charge of ensuring local authorities and NHS gain value for money in their spending, has paid an overall £566,000 for the hotel rooms for its over 2000 workers between April 2009 and 2011.

Based on figures submitted to the MPs, the commission spent another £213,000 on “meetings and training events”.

The commission's managers appeared to have rented rooms at the most expensive London hotels including Tophams Belgravia Hotel, the Radisson Mountbatten and the Novotel London Tower Bridge where rooms cost between £140 and £154.90 a night.

The biggest bill was for the City Inn Westminster hotel where the commission spent an overall £118,227 over the two-year period to accommodate its staff at a cost of £132.99 a night.

The disclosure has raised angry reactions among them by Housing Minister Grant Shapps who described the figures as "astounding" saying the "the commissions liked to live the high life on the taxpayer".

The scandal by the spending watchdog comes just days after revelations that it went through a £20,000 bill for dining out - including meals at Michelin-starred restaurants - cinema tickets, luxury chocolates from Thorntons and even doughnuts over the same two-year period.

The commission's extravagance, including another incident when it appeared to have spent £53,000 on 224 luxury office chairs, has led to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles pledging to scrap the commission, expected to save an annual £50million.

"You have to wonder if the Audit Commission was secretly compiling its own special guide to top London hotels,” Shapps said.

"Why did executives need to stay in all these different plush hotels? What's the business case? The extent to which the commission's liked to live the high life on the taxpayer is quite astounding,” he added.

AMR/HE
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