FIGURES illustrating Monmouthshire County Council's (MCC) hospitality spending have sparked outrage from the Labour group.

The authority spent about £47,000 on hospitality from the start of the 2013/14 financial year until October 2013.

The list includes expenditure on golf clubs, hotels and at Chepstow Racecourse with the hotel bill alone totalling nearly £10,000.

Receipts reveal that £1,440 was spent on canapés and £420 was spent on Pimm's at the chairman's civic reception last year.

The leader of the Labour group for Monmouthshire, Councillor Dimitri Batrouni, says he was informed by an MCC officer that an up-to-date figure spent on hospitality totals around £67,000.

Councillor Batrouni said: "Given the unprecedented level of cuts to local services, this sort of spending will enrage Monmouthshire residents.

"The Tories have got their priorities all wrong. At a time when they have made cuts to the Special Educational Needs children budget, they are spending nearly £67,000 on hospitality.

"We would reverse this, drastically cutting the hospitality budget and spending it instead on Monmouthshire's most vulnerable children."

Deputy Leader of MCC, Cllr Bob Greenland, said: "Over the years we have continually sought to reign in expenses. So there is very little 'hospitality' left, particularly for elected councillors.

"It is clear that much of what is in this list would not even be defined by most people as 'hospitality'.

"For instance room hire where the cost is recouped from external parties. There were two payments to golf clubs which were both for the council's Flying Start initiative to help vulnerable children, a cost which was funded by the Welsh Government and had been subjected to competitive tendering.

"The majority of hotel use has been for holding conferences or room hire for meetings. In many of these cases external partners have been re-charged.

"Nevertheless we need to be re-assured that our drive to eliminate unnecessary expenditure is being followed throughout the council. Therefore officers have been asked to give a complete breakdown of the payments.

"Labour claim they will drastically reduce this budget, when clearly they do not know what is in it. Ironic really to complain about payments we made to help vulnerable children through Sure Start when Cllr Batrouni has vowed to use the money 'to help Monmouthshire's most vulnerable children'."

On the bill for canapés and Pimm's, Cllr Greenland said: "Each year at the civic service and reception the council offers hospitality to those in our communities who add to the fabric of our society; those in the voluntary sector and other public services, as well as other civic heads.

"Some councillors, including Labour attend, sometimes accompanied by their spouses, who during the year often act as unpaid secretaries and message takers.

"A few years ago there would be a meal provided. Now in our drive for economy it is a buffet and a drink on reception. It was summer so a glass of Pimm's and canapés seems appropriate."

Councillor Batrouni is to submit a motion at the full Monmouthshire County Council meeting tomorrow (16th January) to cap hospitality spending at £10,000.