Smallest authority faced big bills for consultants’ rooms

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YORKSHIRE’S smallest district council spent more than £25,000 on hotel bills over a three-year period to accommodate a string of outside consultants and interim executives.

Craven District Council, which has a total annual budget of just £28m, also paid for two elected councillors and an officer to stay at £200-a-night hotels in London when attending Royal Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace during 2009 and 2010.

The council’s spending contrasts starkly with neighbouring Hambleton Council, which has a larger budget but spent just £2,100 on hotels over the same three-year period.

The vast majority of Craven’s spending was on hotels in Skipton for the team of consultants, accountants and interim executives the authority brought in after hitting financial difficulties.

Many were working two or three days at a time for the council and never moved to the area.

Around £25,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent accommodating seven consultants over three years.

Paul Ellis, the council’s deputy chief executive, said the expense had been necessary to ensure the right staff were brought in but that the period of high spending on hotels was now over.

“In late 2008/09, without a chief executive and chief financial officer, the council made temporary part-time appointments to provide the necessary leadership at a time of transition.

“It was more cost-effective to provide these temporary appointments with overnight accommodation as opposed to mileage expenses.

“The council’s flight and hotel expenditure is now negligible.”

Freedom of Information requests reveal the council also paid around £200-a-night at hotels in London on three occasions.

One Conservative member and a council officer both stayed at the £185-a-night Crowne Plaza in Buckingham Gate when attending a Royal Garden Party last year.

In 2009, another Tory councillor stayed at the £200-a-night Grange Rochester Hotel when visiting the Palace.

A spokeswoman said bookings were made through a local travel agent on the understanding they must be “within walking distance of Buckingham Palace”.