Monday 20 November 2017

John Prescott’s staff spent British taxpayers money in Oz casino

Sam Lister and Andrew Woodcock

FORMER deputy prime minister John Prescott's private office spent hundreds of pounds of taxpayers' money in a casino in Australia, it was revealed today.

Documents released by the British Department for Communities and Local Government show a government credit card was used to spend £456 at the Star City casino, £490 at a seafood restaurant and £75 at an aquarium during a visit to Sydney in 2004.

The figures were revealed as ministers prepared for the release of details of spending on departmental Government Procurement Cards (GPCs) - charge cards used by staff to make small-scale purchases.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that more stringent controls on use of the cards - including a crackdown on first-class travel - had resulted in a £45m reduction in the amount spent over the first year of the coalition Government.

And new restrictions limiting civil service bonuses to only the top 25pc performers have reaped a further £15m since April this year.

Lord Prescott told the Daily Telegraph that he had never had a Government credit card and was surprised at the spending by his officials, but believed it must have been to cover food and drink during a visit to Australia to study the relaxation of casino licensing laws.

But housing minister Grant Shapps said it showed "a cavalier attitude to the public purse" under the Labour government.

Under reforms introduced by the coalition, all transactions above £500 made on departmental GPCs from April this year will be made public.

Mr Maude said: "We inherited an unprecedented deficit and are doing all we can to address waste and increase scrutiny on Government expenditure.

"We need to be able show taxpayers that every penny we spend is being used efficiently and we must open up our books so people can see for themselves where their money is going.

"Transparent government is absolutely essential to restoring people's trust in the political system."

The Cabinet Office said data will also reveal a 40pc headcount reduction in the number of consultants.

Conservative Party chairman Sayeeda Warsi said: "We are working with the civil service to clear up the mess Labour left in Whitehall and shining a light on departmental spending by publishing full details for the first time.

"This Government is being honest about how we are spending taxpayers' money. Transparency will help ensure that the abuses of procurement cards that we saw under Labour won't be repeated.

"Labour's 'all must have prizes' culture meant that two-thirds of senior civil servants were paid bonuses - we think bonuses should be a reward for excellence, so we've restricted them to just the top performers."

Mr Shapps said: "Prezza seems to have a cavalier attitude to the public purse, playing Russian roulette with taxpayers' cash.

"We all know he liked to live the high life, but there is something fishy about the public footing the bill for him to go to an aquarium in Sydney.

"Unlike Labour, we are bringing in strong checks and balances to ensure this kind of wild spending can never happen again."

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