taking money from wallet

Hey, Big Spender!

Think it’s just you who has trouble with expenses? Whether it’s the pile of expense forms to sift through, lost receipts or claims that have been exaggerated, take heart, you’re not alone. Which industries are the UK’s big spenders when it comes to expenses?


1. Academic

We know that tuition fees at UK universities are hefty, averaging around £9,000. But how much of those fees fund staff expenses?

Last year, a senior official at Bangor University was lambasted by the media for spending £45,000 of expenses in her first year, including £10,000 to take staff to New York where they saw Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel on Broadway. Other eyebrow raising claims include an annual bill of £42,000 on luxury flights by a Bath Spa University vice-chancellor and a £620 front bell system for the City University London’s  vice-chancellor.


2. Government

You were probably expecting this one weren’t you? In 2009, the expenses scandal broke and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was formed to monitor Parliamentary expenses. In 2011, MPs claimed nearly £23.5m in expenses. Fast forward seven years, Westminster got its act together and reduced expense claims to £4.9m.

Claims included £1,645 by Sir Peter Viggers for a floating duck house, £609 of hedge trimming around a helipad for Michael Spicer, a 3p mileage claim by Liam Fox for a 100 metre-car journey and John Prescott’s £312 claim for mock Tudor beams in his constituency home and for two new toilet seats in as many years.

But all that paperwork isn’t as easy as Newport MP Paul Flynn, describes: “A monthly 30-minute chore was complicated by IPSA into hours of tedious frustrating trawling through a bureaucratic morass of rules.”  Sounds like they’re ready to break-up with their spreadsheet too.


3. Media

Long boozy lunches, hours of networking in the pub and bumping up expenses are a thing of the past for the media industry. Perhaps that’s why we can’t find too many examples of crazy expense claims.

But, it’s not completely without scandal. Seven top BBC employees accumulated £25,000 of expenses in the final six months of 2015 and Alan Yentob alone charged £1,500 back to the BBC for 75 cab journeys. And in 2013, a sports journalist was sacked and arrested for claiming £450 of mileage despite taking the bus.


4. Financial Services

You may expect financial services firms to be on top of the employee expenses game. And they are closely scrutinised. In 2009, KPMG director Andrew Wetherall was jailed after £0.5m of false expenses were to “pay for his wife’s extravagant lifestyle”, forcing the firm to overhaul its expenses system.

Meanwhile, in banking, personal expenditure is firmly in the public eye with Lloyds Banking Group’s chief executive questioned over hotel bills linked to allegations of an affair were made on expenses. After an investigation, the bank found no breach of policy. And ex IMF chief and Spanish bank box stood trial last month accused of overseeing a “corrupt system” where €15m was spent on hotels, parties and luxury shopping.


5. The Church

You may be forgiven for thinking the church had limited expenses. But in 2015, twenty-eight Church of England trustees spent £16,000 in travel and subsidies expenses. Seems like there’s no profession not burdened with admin.


6. The NHS

Healthcare is another surprise sector rattled by expenses. So much so that, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, between 2003 and 2013, GP practice earnings were outpaced by expenses. Dr Clare Gerada – Britain’s most senior family doctor – warned the NHS could experience its own expenses scandal if doctors diverted money intended for patient services to pay for basic equipment and refurbishments.


7. What about you?

Expenses management can be onerous and an administrative nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A Corporate FairFX Prepaid Mastercard® can offer both transparency and control. You can load a pre-agreed balance and the cards can be used everywhere they accept Mastercard cards, plus it comes with a fully integrated platform to easily manage expenditure, card balances and reporting. It’s time to take the Prepaid Card paracetamol and get rid of that expenses headache for good.


Everyone has a friend of a friend with an out-of-pocket, missed flight, or bottle of Bollinger-themed horror story. Read more here.

Mariette Ferreira

Mariette Ferreira

Mariette heads up marketing at FairFX. She loves travelling, scuba diving and South Africa, but she's yet to combine all three in one.

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