Sutton Council spends £1,300 on coasters and lanyards a week after telling people front-line services are at risk
Just a week after people were warned front line services could be axed in council cuts, it has emerged the council is spending more than £500 on coasters.
Sutton Council said spending £583 on coasters reminding workers of phone and computer protocol and £748 on lanyards reminding workers to put residents first represent good value for money - despite the council last week warning difficult decisions lie ahead as it fights to make savings of £40m in the next four years.
It comes despite warnings from the council leader last week of difficult decisions lie ahead as it fights to make savings of £40m in the next four years.
Last week, Sutton Council launched Sutton's Future, a campaign aimed at letting members of the public influence how savings are made in the next four years.
Council leader Ruth Dombey said the council had made savings of more than £30m since 2011 without affecting front line services, but said further savings are likely to have a greater impact.
Opposition politicians and campaigners are calling on the council to keep a closer eye on its own spending before it cuts services.
One council worker read about his employer's plans to make cuts in the staff newsletter and then turned the page to read about its plans to purchase the coasters.
The worker, who asked not to be named, said: "It feels like they are taking the mick.
"On one page I'm reading a letter from the chief executive [Niall Bolger] talking about how things are going to be difficult and then a couple of pages later I'm reading about them buying a load of coasters.
"It just doesn't fit right."
The coasters are part of the council's 'connect smarter' campaign that aims to make it easier for employers to contact their workmates by making sure they have up to date email signatures and that they log in to the phone system every day.
The lanyards are part of the 'putting residents first' programme that aims to promote the principles of customer service the council wants people to follow.
Councillor Tim Crowley, leader of Sutton's Conservatives, said: "Saving starts at home. There's the old saying 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves', and I think that applies here.
"I don't see why people have to have coasters and lanyards to remind them of these things.
"It seems like a waste of money to me and it is a cheek to ask people to accept cuts in services when there are still things like this going on.
"It makes you wonder what else they are wasting money on."
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Residents will struggle to understand how the council can possibly spend a single penny of taxpayers' money on these coasters and lanyards when its having to make such huge savings.
"Hard-pressed families pay taxes to fund essential front-line services, the council mustn't forget this."
Sutton Council spokesman defended the purchases and said: "We created lanyards and coasters to encourage and remind staff to follow important guidelines.
"These campaigns can make a big difference in improving the service we give at a time when our shrinking workforce is managing around 800 services for a growing population of residents."
"We spent £748 on lanyards and £583 on coasters for our staff and we feel this is a good investment in raising standards and being more efficient."