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Bonkers Blog December 2011

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9 December (Part 1) - Money in Browne envelopes

I fell out of the habit of looking through Bexley council’s list of expenditure over £500 when things got busy but now that things are a bit quieter I resumed my interest in where the money goes.

Most of the entries are meaningless, there is not enough information to do other than guess what the payment might be for and assume it is legitimate; but there are occasionally things that don’t seem to make any sense at all.

First4VauxhallWhilst the brevity of company and payment descriptions may be a recipe for confusion I cannot think of any obvious reason for a payment of £16,740 to Vauxhall dealer First4Vauxhall which isn’t going to be something to do with the purchase of a vehicle. However Education & Social Care have attributed that expenditure to “Arts”. Continuing with the transport theme, £212,243.93 went to our old friends Parsons Brinckerhoff, the beneficiaries of councillor Craske’s £4m. largesse.

Gabrielle BrowneOne thing I was surprised to see was a payment under the Long Service Awards (LSA) heading because Bexley council said that had all stopped at the beginning of the year. Personally I don’t see why council staff shouldn’t get similar benefits to those in other occupations and a token of appreciation of 25 years’ service doesn’t worry me at all, but a payment of £1,803.60 to Gabrielle Browne under the LSA heading strikes me as a bit odd. Bexley’s website says that Gabrielle Browne has been their staff counsellor since 1999 so is an unlikely candidate for a long service award. Why should awards money be passed to her? If it was a piece of internal accounting it wouldn’t be on the list at all. And what was the odd sixty pence for?

It’s much more likely than not that such oddities are down to incompetence, mismanagement and bad organisation than fraud but the examples serve to reinforce my view that publishing expenditure over £500 in the form that Bexley chooses to do so is just a token gesture towards openness and probably an almost total waste of money.


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