Glasgow's £100k dining bill

OFFICIALS at Glasgow City Council have spent more than £100,000 on hospitality dinners costing up to £100 a head over the past three years.

Senior figures at Glasgow City Council spent the cash on a series of awards and charity events as they braced themselves for an expected round of budget cutbacks.

The spending – a total of 104,000 between the beginning of 2007 and now – comes on top of the ballooning hospitality bills of the network of so-called arm's-length external organisations, or Aleos, created by the authority's disgraced former leader Steven Purcell and will raise new questions about profligate spending by public bodies.

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The new figures were obtained by Nationalist councillor Graeme Hendry, who yesterday said the time had come for officials to be "more selective" about events they attend.

The documents show that officials ordered numerous tables at prestigious events, including the annual Lord Provost's Burns Supper, the highlight of the city's social and networking calendar, where a table for 12 costs 1,000.

Officials from the council's old planning department, Development and Regeneration Services, spent the most – 51,655 in three years. Some of the cost of dinners, however, included the price of sponsoring awards at a series of ceremonies for business people.

The council's schools department – Education Services – spent 27,074 in the three years, including annual tables taken at a cost of 1,200 each at charity dinners organised by both Rangers and Celtic. The starting salary of a teacher in Scotland is currently just over 21,000 a year.

Hendry said: "This seems like a lot of taxpayers' money was spent on these dinners. I am sure some of them were of great value to the council but I hope we will be far more selective about what we spend money on in the future given the current economic circumstances."

Hendry is currently also investigating spending on dinners by Purcell himself. The former leader resigned in February and has since admitted taking cocaine and to fear of blackmail from organised criminals.

Purcell's private office was, until his departure, spending 180,000 a year on staffing alone, up from 130,000 in 2007-08, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council, yesterday defended hospitality dinners. She said: "Attending events like these can help maximise opportunities to promote the city and gain practical advantages for Glasgow and its citizens."

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The Labour-dominated council last week rejected calls from the SNP for a wide-ranging investigation into both Purcell's leadership and the Aleos he set up, often creating highly-paid jobs for close political allies.

Some Aleos have enthusiastically used public money to entertain. Scotland on Sunday last month revealed that City Building, the Aleo set up from the council's old building services department, had spent nearly 20,000 in a single year on hospitality dinners. Eleven of the 18 dinners were attended by Labour politicians, and the body was dubbed the "Labour social club" in City Chambers.