The Shropshire Star published my letter “huge bill for consultants” today. Thanks guys!

The essence of the letter is that despite council leader Keith Barrow telling us that his council is completely open about how it spends its money, it had stopped publishing detailed financial data in April 2012.

Keith was unaware of this when he told BBC Radio Shropshire last week that freedom of information requests about payments are unnecessary because “it’s published on our website”. The lack of data was raised on Twitter and later he tweeted: “@libdembodders I’ll make sure this is addressed, thanks.”

Not long after today’s digital edition of the Shropshire Star hit the desktop, the data for April to October 2012 was published online. Thanks Keith!

I am still puzzled about why so much spending is classified as miscellaneous expenses. In 2011/12, a whacking 8,287 items were classified miscellaneous, adding up to a cool £17.9 million of spending. These are payments that are so central to the council’s operations that it does not know how to classify them! How can an organisation keep tight control of its spending when nearly £18 million pounds is dismissed in the accounts as “miscellaneous”?

Things haven’t improved in the latest financial data. An astonishing £11.1 million was classified as miscellaneous expenses in the first six months of the 2012/13 financial year.

I have yet to study the 10,104 items classified as miscellaneous expenses in detail, but one payment caught my eye.

This was a payment of £20,000 to Giftwend, Joan Armatrading’s company. I have long regretted not being able to get to Theatre Seven to see her performance last September. Indeed, I last saw her perform way back in 1978 at Blackbushe, where she outshone Bob Dylan.

I have always dreamed of getting her to perform at a birthday party. But alas, at £20,000 a show that wish is set to remain a pipedream!

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