THE leader of Barnet Council has hit out at a blogger for “wasting” £9,000 of taxpayer's money after he forced an inquiry into the authority buying flat screen TVs for senior officers.

David Miller, of Darlands Drive, Barnet, forced the inquiry by lodging a formal complaint that the council had acted unlawfully in spending £14,000 on the TVs.

Mr Miller, who writes the blog Barnet Council Watch, claimed the contract, part of a £90,000 outlay on conference equipment, had also not been approved by councillors and had not been competitive.

The complaint prompted an internal investigation by accountancy firm Grant Thornton, at a cost of £9,000, which found no evidence that the purchase had been unlawful.

Speaking after Grant Thornton published its findings yesterday councillor Mike Freer, the leader of the council, said: "This was a vindictive and weak complaint.

“All this individual has achieved is to waste £9,000 of taxpayers' money. The audio visual equipment actually saved money as it meant the council no longer had to hire in specialist equipment.”

The council bought the equipment in November 2007 as part of a refurbishment of its head offices in North London Business Park.

Councillors approved the overall budget for the refurbishment and the decision on how to spend it was delegated to officers.

Mr Miller today said the suggestion that the TVs would save the authority money was “nonsense”, pointing out that the year before the equipment was bought it spent just over £4,000 on hiring equipment.

He said: “No private business would ever make a capital purchase with a 20-year payback period, especially when you factor in maintenance and insurance charges.

“Elderly residents facing the demise of their warden service will not be impressed that Freer thinks spending £14,000 buying five flat screen televisions for chief officers is a good use of public resources.”

Mr Miller said he repeatedly offered to withdraw the complaint if the council told him who authorised the spending on flat screen TVs “for the chief executive and his cronies”, but received no answer.

The investigation found that approval was not sought from councillors when the decision was made.

It also found that there was no competitive process and “only a limited testing of value for money”.

Mr Miller added: “We now know their silence was to save Freer’s blushes because the auditor found that councillors completely failed to monitor the spending.

“It is a bit rich for Mike Freer, who spent £5,000 of taxpayers’ money flying business class to America, to complain about other people wasting public money.”