Croydon Council spent just under a quarter of a million pounds on hotels in less than a year, SWLondoner can reveal.
According to a response to a Freedom of Information request made by SWL, procurement card data shows the cash-strapped authority spent a total of £230,891 at numerous hotels between April 2019 and March 2020.
The revelation comes as the authority recently agreed to a 1.99% increase in council tax as part of a package of sweeping cuts to meet the £67million gap in its budget.
Last year, Croydon Council was forced to issue a section 114 notice – effectively declaring itself bankrupt – just eight months after some of the last payments were dished out.
In October last year the council’s auditors, Grant Thornton, described “a culture of collective corporate blindness of both the seriousness of the financial position and the urgency with which actions needed to be taken.”
Of the total amount, £152,832 was spent at a number of Premier Inn branches, while £19,134 was spent at Travelodge and £12,380 at Holiday Inn.
The most expensive visit included a £2,982 stay at a Premier Inn in August last year, while 13 separate visits between July and November 2019 all totalled over £2,000.
According to the data, over £8,000 was spent on four star establishments, including two £1,000 stays at the Hallmark Hotel London and a £612 stay at the Hotel Emperador.
When approached for comment, Croydon Council said that it could not provide any more information on the category of hotel.
Figures also show that of the total spend, £24,000 was shelled out to provide emergence accommodation to homeless households, while £32,240 was used to provide disabled units for those with no home, laying bare the cost of homelessness in the borough.
Research from Shelter revealed that over 5,700 people in Croydon were reported as homeless, rising to over 10,000 when taking into account the neighbouring boroughs of Bromley and Sutton.
In 2018, the Evening Standard revealed that councils across the UK had spent a total of £300million in three years on placing homeless people in hotels and B&Bs.
Although it has been revealed how much the council spent on hotels during this period, the duration of nearly every stay is unknown.
Meanwhile, there are also a number of gaps in the details of individual transactions, and according to the same procurement card data, £43,835 worth of transactions have yet to be accounted for.
But these are not the only transactions to come under scrutiny.
SWL can also reveal Croydon Council spent £9,729 of taxpayer’s money on eight separate flights between July 2019 and February 2020.
One flight, booked through Flight Centre holiday specialists for a young person to attend a funeral in February last year, cost £1,835.
Another trip for the assessment of a potential adoption in Ecuador cost £842, while another flight to Hamburg cost £887.
A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “It is very common for councils to pay unforeseen expenses that are necessary to support residents and meet their legal duties, and Croydon is no exception.
“As well as helping our residents when they need it, very often these upfront costs also prevent further expense in future.
“This includes using hotels as emergency accommodation so people presenting as homeless – including those with specialist needs such as people with disabilities or large families – do not end up rough sleeping, and flights that allow social workers to reunite children in our care with their families.
“We have a range of measures in place to limit these extra costs wherever possible – from having council-owned temporary accommodation for hundreds of households to increasing our use of digital technology – and the council is committed to living within its means and providing good value core services to our residents.”
Featured image credit: Robin Webster, Geograph under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license