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UK Press lambasts spending watchdog for buying £900 office chairs with public cash

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Several British newspapers have attacked Britain\'s spending watchdog for spending £53,000 of taxpayers\' money on office chairs including designer models costing nearly £900 each.
According to the stories, Government Ministers accused the Audit Commission, an independent body set up to ensure money is spent legally and wisely, of going on a \"shopping spree\" while Britain was still suffering from the recession. Local government minister Grant Shapps attacked the quango for \"forgetting that its job was to protect the public purse\". In the last year it bought:
* Four \"modern and elegant, eye-catching\" Kinnarps Omni Swivel chairs at £854 each.
* Two Naughtone Hush chairs at £840 each which offer \"sanctuary from the everyday hubbub\".
* Eleven Kinnarps Bone chairs at £562 each. In total, the commission bought 224 office chairs in total in the last 12 months, including 125 Godfrey Syrett \"ergo plus high back asynchro\" models at just over £200 each. The cheapest chair was £99.
The Audit Commission has previously come under fire for its spending, including £40,000 on office pot plants.
Shortly after the election, the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles rejected the Commission\'s request for a pay package of almost £240,000 for its new chief executive.
In August the coalition government announced that the commission is to be abolished as part of its \"bonfire of the quangos\". Mr Shapps said: \"It seems that whilst the country was in recession the Audit Commission went on a massive shopping spree buying designer chairs.
\"This kind of casual attitude to spending taxpayers\' cash undermines faith in the public sector and is yet more evidence of how under Labour the Audit Commission forgot that its job was to protect the public purse.\"
Conservative MP Aidan Burley added: \"It is a shocking waste of money for a spending watchdog to have shelled out so much on designer chairs.
\"No wonder the state ran up such massive debts under Labour. This reinforces the case for scrapping this wasteful quango.\"
But the commission said: \"In 2009 the Audit Commission refurbished several of its offices to reduce our office space and save money.
The chairs were an expense as part of a wider saving initiative and were intended to last for at least 10 years.\"
The commission stressed it had not purchased any more chairs since its abolition was announced last year.

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