Expenses row rages on

SHEFFIELD Council's ruling Liberal Democrats have been criticised for failing to look at the authority's huge £6 million expenses bill during the last round of cuts - and targeting children's services instead.

The council slashed 6.5 million from this year's budget in July, which included reducing spending on youth provision by 3.15 million.

Cuts fell on dozens of youth schemes, including 400,000 from the Connexions careers programme, leading to 95 job losses, 200,000 from the council's teenage pregnancy project, and 180,000 from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health scheme.

The council also axed 1.2 million from a scheme to help start-up businesses - and 90,000 from community cohesion programme Prevent.

Now staff are being asked to take cuts to their terms and conditions to save 7 million a year.

Political bosses were only alerted to the scale of the expenses total after The Star uncovered figures showing that during the 2009/10 financial year, the authority's claims bill came to 6.036 million, including 492,000 on hospitality and 906,000 on public transport - mainly rail fares.

Opposition Labour leader Coun Julie Dore said: "How can this total not have been looked at when the council was making 6.5 million of cuts earlier in the year?

"Instead it chose to target children's and other frontline services first."

Cabinet member for finance, Coun Simon Clement Jones, said: "Whilst some essential training and transport costs are required by frontline staff, the council is spending too much on unnecessary perks."

Lib Dems say the expenses total has fallen since they took power but have launched an urgent internal inquiry to see how much of the bill is necessary.

Officers are now booking cheaper advance train tickets and restricting hospitality spending.

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