Council spending

THE onus may increasingly be on the private sector to lead the country back to economic growth, but this does not mean that the public sector can continue to indulge in the type of profligacy which, if repeated by private industry, would soon bring the country to its knees.

Nor is there any point in councils crying foul over the cuts they are being forced to make, or taking the easy option of shedding jobs and blaming the Government, when their spending has clearly been out of control.

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Of course, such strictures do not apply to those better-run local authorities where careful planning and astute financial management have obviated the need for mass redundancies. But what is the public to make of the continued litany of spending on overseas trips and cushy hotels at councils such as Leeds (150,000 on flights and hotels for staff and members over the past three years) and Hull (227,000 on hotel costs alone over the same period)?

The councils involved protest that such spending is more than justified in the cause of promotion and reaping inward investment. But it is only right that the public should be the final arbiter of such matters.

This is why the Government's insistence that, by today, councils must publish every item of expenditure above 500, is going to make very interesting reading over the next few months.