Daily Mail: £11 Million bill for perks at the Home Office

Thursday, 19 June, 2008

HOME Office staff spent almost £11million on taxis, hotels and flights last year.

The bill - picked up by the taxpayer - has rocketed by almost 50 per cent in only three years.

Taxis alone cost the public £900,000 in 2007/08, up 30-fold from the £30,000 spent in 1997/98.

Meanwhile the bill for overseas hotels reached £4,318,000, a rise of 167 per cent from 2004-05, when the cost was £1,614,000.

It comes at a time when Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is forcing police to take an effective pay increase of only 1.9 per cent.

The total saving from refusing to pay the country's 140,000 police the full 2.5 per cent rise agreed at independent arbitration was only £30million - less than three times the sum blown on perks for officials.

The Conservatives' police spokesman David Ruffley said: 'As new technology allows for meetings to be held over the internet or by conference call, less money should be spent on flights, hotels and taxis, not more.

'Hard-pressed police, deprived of their 2.5 per cent independent pay award, will want to know why the Home Secretary does not spend more of her time getting a grip of her own spiralling Whitehall running costs.'

The scale of the Home Office largesse is revealed in a series of Parliamentary answers to Mr Ruffley, many of which cover different time periods.

In 2004-05 the Home Office claims it did not spend any money on UK hotels. But by 2007-08 it was spending £1,213,000.

In the past four years, Home Office expenditure on flights has increased by 82 per cent, from £1.41million in 2003-04 to £2.56million in 2007-08.

The total expenses bill in 2004/05 was £7,382,000. Last year, it had increased to £10,945,000.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'It's incredible that the Home Office claims to have no money in the bank for extra police officers or promised police pay rises, but when it comes to all the perks of a Whitehall bureaucrat's life, there's plenty of money to spare.

'The Home Secretary should get her department's priorities straight. Front-line services should come before fat cat perks.'

A Home Office spokesman said: 'All travel is undertaken in accordance with the Civil Service Management and Ministerial Codes and clear rules are laid out for all staff.

'We remain committed to reducing travel costs and avoiding unnecessary expenditure.

'Spending on flights has decreased year on year since 04/05 by £1.6million and the cost of overseas hotels is down by £1.3million this year over last year.

'The annual cost of travel reflects both the size of the Home Office as one of the largest government departments and the nature of the department's business