Civil servants are spending millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money a year on first-class rail travel, flights and taxi fares, official figures have revealed.
Departments are also frittering away hundreds of thousands of pounds on other expenses such as newspapers and flowers.
Chief offenders are ministers and civil servants at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who racked up a mammoth £9.48m on first-class rail travel between July 2006 and June 2007.
In the same period, the department spent almost £3m in legal costs defending employment tribunal claims, £1.4m on business-class flights and £126,393 on newspapers and magazines.
The figures were disclosed in response to written questions on departmental expenditure by Mark Hoban, Conservative MP for Fareham. He told Personnel Today: “People will be horrified by the DWP’s expenditure and wonder what an earth is going on at a time when spending is being cut.”
A DWP spokesman said ministers and civil servants were often required to travel to different locations across the UK. “In certain circumstances, as set out in departmental guidance and the ministerial code of conduct, they use first-class travel. However, we are looking at how we can reduce costs.”
Other large departments were almost as wasteful. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform – previously the DTI – spent £1.26m on first-class rail travel, £2.58m on business-class flights, £349,075 on taxis and £100,115 on newspapers.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, charged with running the campaign to boost the UK’s skills levels, spent almost £4m on first-class train tickets when it was part of the Department for Education and Skills.
The figures are even more stark as they are set against a backdrop of departmental budget cuts, expected to be outlined this week in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which sets out funding for 2008 to 2011.
Civil Service workers are involved in a long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions. A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services union said its members “would view these figures with disbelief, especially in the context of the budget cuts, low pay and jobs being axed left, right and centre”.