Care, carriageways and parking at MJB Hotels - where Norfolk County Council has been spending your money

Constructing the NDR. Picture: Nigel Pickover

Constructing the NDR. Picture: Nigel Pickover - Credit: Archant

Removal of bodies? £792; Pest control? £4,043; letting taxpayers know where their cash is going? Priceless.

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This newspaper today looks at where Norfolk County Council has been spending your money.

We've published details of almost 14,500 payments made by the council in July - the last month for which data is available - showing spending on everything from the cost of producing blue badges to building roads.

The council is required to publish every payment it makes over £500 on its website each month.

It also publishes transactions made on the Government Procurement card which public sector organisations use to pay for cheaper items.

The Beeches Hotel in Norwich.

The Beeches Hotel in Norwich. - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers


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We've taken that data and made it into a searchable table on our website which we will update every month.

It means you can find out where your money has been going by searching the table for a particular company or reason for the spending. You can also view the full data here.

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•Top earners: Care and carriageways

Care for the elderly.

Care for the elderly. - Credit: Archant © 2006

More than 1,500 different organisations got money from the County Council in July, earning a total of £138m.

The spending reveals that paying for long term residential care was the biggest single area of spending, coming in at £8.6m.

But it is infrastructure firms which are getting the biggest individual sums from the council.

Tarmac was paid £3.7m in the month, followed by Balfour Beatty, which is building the NDR, getting £2.5m - a sign of how much of the council is spending on roadworks.

Tarmac has contracts with Norfolk County Council for highways works and equipment.

It has been working on the Norwich city centre roadworks, some of which had to be redone after problems were found with the asphalt they used.

Morgan Sindall, a construction firm which is expanding and updating Norfolk primary schools, was also near the top of the table, getting £1.5m in July.

Norse Care, a firm set up by the County Council to run care and residential homes in Norfolk, was the third single biggest earner at £2.4m.

Meanwhile, Independence Matters, a social enterprise also set up by the council, was paid £1.9m in July.

It provides care for people with learning and physical disabilities, as well as the elderly.

•Parking at MJB Hotels

Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash is also going to a group of Norwich hotels which has faced issues in the past over prostitutes and drugs.

Norfolk County Council has paid MJB Hotels £13,000 for parking in the last year.

The hotels are among the worst rated hotels in Norwich on review site TripAdvisor, with guests complaining about the state of the rooms and parking charges.

An investigation by this newspaper in August found neighbours of MJB Hotels on Unthank Road have complained to the police about anti social behaviour and prostitution. MJB did not comment on our investigation.

Norfolk County Council has made four payments of £3,250 to MJB Hotels since September last year.

It pays for 25 parking spaces at the hotels from Monday to Friday between 8am and 5.30pm for council staff.

Seven spaces are at the Beeches Apartments on Unthank Road and 18 parking spaces are at The Beeches Hotel on Earlham Road.

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: 'Over a year these spaces cost Norfolk County Council £13,000 which equates to £2 a day per space (a much lower price than other quotes we have received from commercial operators for available city centre parking spaces).

'The parking is used by County Council staff who work out of various city centre offices.'

But Nelson Ward Green Party councillor Denise Carlo said: 'Norfolk County Council should certainly not be using public money to park in MJB Hotels.

'The fact that the County Council is using public money to benefit a company which runs such poor premises will not go down well with the public.'

•Taxis

Five taxi companies earned more than £50,000 in July from the County Council. They were, in order, Albies Taxis (£188,235), Stations Taxis (King's Lynn), (£124,695), Swift Taxis (£90,731), Canary Express Taxis (£65,687) and Our Hire Taxis (£57,167). All five firms have contracts with the county council's children's services or community services departments to provide transport for people the council looks after.

Meanwhile, a total of £66,558 was spent on council staff travel and accommodation in July. That all went to one firm called Click Travel which is a travel management company.

•Legal minds

A total of £35,000 was spent on individual barristers.

The top earners were family law specialists at Norfolk firm Octagon Legal.

Marika Bell was paid £14,962 by the council in that month.

Another barrister at Octagon, Christopher Fletcher, also a family law specialist, earned £6,740 from the council.

•What we don't know

No names of recipients are given for £68m worth of spending in July. A further £2m of spending has the name of the recipient redacted for personal reasons and another £1.6m of spending had the name redacted for 'commercial confidentiality'.

The name of the payee has been redacted where the payee is a private individual.

Where a reason is given, long term care was the biggest drain on resources.

The data also doesn't include payment of taxes.

•Summer spending

We've also looked at spending data published from April to June this year.

In those three months, Cambridgeshire Community Services was the biggest single beneficiary of cash, getting just over £8m. They have two big contracts with the council.

One is called the Healthy Child Programme and is a five-year contract to make contact with every child in Norfolk and encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles. One way this is done is through school visits.

The second contract covers sexual health clinics and contraception.

In April, May and June, the council also spent more than £1.6m with a firm called Comensura which acts as an agency for employment agencies.

Comensura gives the authority access to employment agencies through which the council sources temporary staff.

A spokesperson for the council said: 'Individual managers typically use Comensura to recruit essential temporary cover whilst we recruit permanently.

'This arrangement provides the council (which employs more than 6000 staff) with a flexible temporary resource.'

Meanwhile, almost £4m was paid in compensation to landowners to build the NDR from Postwick to Taverham. They payments are listed as 'disturbance payments' in the data.

Around £17m is expected to be paid out in total in compensation to around 200 people and companies to build the distributor road.

The council is buying 700 acres of land, as well as acquiring 136 acres temporarily, for the £178.5m project.

Another big spend was on agencies to find temporary foster carers for children in the council's care.

Around £1m was spent on the National Fostering Agency from April to June. That company got another £339,377 in July, while Anglia Fostering Agency Ltd was paid £267,259 in July.

•Data taken from Norfolk County Council website and correct as of 27.09.16.

•Do you have a story which needs investigating? Email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772834

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