CASH-STRAPPED Inverclyde Council has racked up a bill of more than £3.6 million on its corporate purchase cards in the last five years — with public money spent on takeaways and video games.

The annual spend using the cards has more than doubled since the 2018/19 financial year — when the bill totalled £489,000 — and has spiralled upwards to £1.1 million for 2022/23.

Figures obtained by the Telegraph under freedom of information legislation reveal that the yearly amount spent by authorised staff using the council’s corporate purchase cards has risen every year since 2019/20.

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Purchases were made at food outlets such as Greggs, Dominos, McDonald’s, KFC, Five Guys and Burger King, with money also spent on attractions such as Heads Of Ayr and Xcite in Braehead.

The cards were also used at local businesses such as Café Balfe, Bullseye Sports Bar and the now-closed Brunch All Day.

Thousands of pounds were used to pay for hotel accommodation — including stays at the high-end Doubletree by Hilton chain — as well as stints at budget brands like Travelodge and Premier Inn.

Considerable costs were also incurred through the purchase of mobile phones and associated accessories.

Many of these transactions were recorded by the council’s health and social care partnership (HSCP), which deals with a wide variety of people including the homeless, vulnerable children and adults and refugees.

Items such as fridges, microwaves and kettles were purchased using the council’s cards, with gift cards and video games for Playstation 5 and Nintendo Switch also bought.

The council currently has 86 live corporate purchase cards.

Staff authorised to use the cards vary across the local authority’s services and include roles such as team leaders, heads of service and the chief executive’s assistant.

An Inverclyde Council spokesperson said the local authority had 'robust' controls in place to manage its spending. 

The local authority added: "It would be entirely wrong and misleading to suggest through this data that any money is being misspent. 

“The council has robust processes in place to monitor spending right across the council and a finance service that no one could consider to be shrinking violets when it comes to challenging spending. 

“The use of purchase cards as a fast and convenient way of purchasing goods reflects the way society is going generally, that many more services and goods are available online.

“Not only is the use of purchase cards to purchase goods and services more convenient and often better value it is something to be welcomed as council officers are very conscious that every single penny we spend is on behalf of the local community with robust processes in place to manage spending.

“The council, like most organisations, households and individuals, is not exempt from the increased costs for products and services we’ve seen during the current cost of living crisis, so it is hardly surprising that expenditure has increased but, again, this is something that is carefully monitored and evaluated to ensure best value for taxpayers’ money.

“It is also worth bearing in mind that some of the items purchased are often by services that directly support people in our community, including vulnerable people.”