The boss of an academy trust, which runs schools in Suffolk and Norfolk, has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on luxury services, an investigation has found.
Channel 4’s Dispatches revealed on Monday that Ian Cleland, chief executive officer for the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) – which runs 22 schools including the Iceni Academy in Methwold; Admirals, Diamond and Norwich Road Academies in Thetford and Great Heath and Mildenhall College Academies in Mildenhall – spent £3,000 on first-class rail travel and more than £1,000 on restaurant bills.
Dispatches looked at the expenses of more than 100 academy trusts and named Mr Cleland – who gets paid £180,000 a year – as ‘one of the most notable users of taxpayer’s money’.
His expenses included a £471 meal at a Marco Pierre White restaurant and another at Bank in Birmingham which totalled £703.45.
The programme, called ‘how school bosses spend your millions’, also revealed the ATT pays for the use of Mr Cleland’s XJ Premium Luxury V6 Jaguar car, including around £3,000 on items like new tyres, a vehicle health check and insurance for him and his wife.
Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for education, said: “It’s public money and I think everybody who’s in receipt of public money should be aware that they’re spending the public purse and they should act accordingly. As a local authority, we have no control over the actions of academy trusts in general, but specifically the nationally-sponsored ones.”
He said he thought local trusts were ‘more accountable to the local community’ but pointed out that there were some ‘really good’ local and national academy trusts in the area who acted ‘in a very responsible manner’.
Mike Giddings, ATT’s director of finance, said the Trust was committed to being ‘open and transparent’ and had procedures to ensure it achieved ‘value for money’ from the funding provided by the Government.
He said Mr Cleland’s company credit card was used for ‘a wide range of operational business purchases’ and not for personal expenditure.
He added that the restaurant expenses related to events for staff, teachers and principals, that rail fares were booked in advance to keep costs down where possible and that Mr Cleland’s car was a lease vehicle provided as part of his remuneration package.
Harry Davis, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “People don’t really begrudge rewarding teachers for good results but far too often high salaries and luxuries are handed out irrespective of performance, sometimes even rewarding failure.
“Of course there are times when long distance travelling will be required for work but it’s down to academy bosses to make sure that they are getting the cheapest possible deals. At the end of the day, the more money that goes into perks and pay, the less there is for spending on educating pupils which must be the priority.”
The Department for Education said academies are ‘subject to stricter oversight and accountability than council-run schools’ and it would investigate where concerns were raised.