COUNCIL leaders have defended spending £24,681 on bottled water in a year.
Wearside Tories hit out at Sunderland City Council after discovering the authority spent more than £2,000 per month on bottles of water in 2010/11.
But the council says it has slashed the amount it spends on bottled water by 85 per cent over the last four years and stressed some of it was bought as a stop-gap while work was carried out on water supplies.
Sunderland Conservatives, however, took issue with the amount spent, claiming the council should be more careful how it uses taxpayers’ money.
Wearside Tory activist Dominic McDonough, who uncovered the figures, said: “Week in, week out we are seeing waste exposed in Sunderland Council when they are insisting they need to cut services.
“Labour are making the cuts hard on this city, not the Government.”
Sunderland Conservatives leader Robert Oliver added: “The council was supposed to be phasing this out and replacing it with water coolers and tap water.
“Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said councils should go through their expenses line-by-line to cut this sort of spending out.”
Malcolm Page, the council’s executive director of Commercial and Corporate Services, said the council was duty-bound to provide drinking water to staff and was working to reduce the cost of that even further.
He said a third of the council’s £24,681 spend on bottled water last year was the result of temporarily providing drinking water to a building while adaptations were made to its water supply.
“Therefore the normal expenditure was £16,000,” he said. “As the council is legally required to supply drinking water for all staff, expenditure on bottled water cannot be completely eliminated but the council is taking all possible steps to minimise this cost.
“Savings have been achieved through the programmed replacement of bottled water facilities with cold mains fed dispensers, however the installation and provision of mains fed dispensers is not economically viable in all buildings.
“The council is also currently rationalising its property portfolio with a view to reducing the numbers of buildings it uses, which in the longer-term will help to further reduce such costs.”