Published: June 24, 2011
Somerset County Council releases its full financial transactions

Somerset County Council has this week published the full details of its staff's financial transactions using credit cards over the past five years.

The cards are routinely used by councils to quickly and easily pay for low-priced items and the use of them is encouraged by the Government because of the savings in time, money and paperwork.

In Somerset, the total number of transactions over the past five years is around 50,000 with a total value of nearly £5m, excluding schools.

The newly information is available here on the authority’s website, and Somerset says it is one of a small number of councils across the UK to openly publish such details.

The figures reveal that in August 2010 a card was used to book a trip to China for students at Street Children’s Centre. Pupils interested in going to China had to raise the funds for the trip up-front, and the council says the credit card was used to pay the £12,294 because this was the most efficient method of paying the travel company.

The data also shows that last July £102 was spent in Pizza Express in Taunton, however the council says this amount refers to the cost of holding a focus group at the venue, in which both children and adults were invited to contribute to what became an award-winning campaign to help reduce teenage pregnancies.

Council Leader Ken Maddock says publishing the transactions is the right thing to do.

"We already publish all our spending over £500. We publish far more detail about senior staff pay than we technically need to, and I welcome the publication of this further information about our spending."

"We know that a small percentage of the transactions need further investigation, and we are taking action where those are concerned. We will also be interested to hear from any of our residents acting as ‘armchair auditors’ who look through these figures and believe they can spot ways to make us more efficient or to save money."

Kevin Nacey, Service Director of Finance, added: "Somerset County Council currently has 699 credit card holders and each one is issued with very strict guidelines regarding their use. We plan to take the lead in publishing transaction details on a regular basis and will provide as much useful information about these as we possibly can."


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