The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and its associated agencies spent £1.86m on catering and £1.56m on hotels in 2009/10, newly released figures have revealed.
The figures emerged as the DCLG became the first Government department to release details of all items of expenditure over £500, as part of the coalition's drive for greater transparency in the public sector.
The department made a total of 1,913 items of expenditure over £500, totalling £314m, while its main quangos spent £337m.
The four-star Rubens at the Palace hotel, located opposite Buckingham Palace just a stone's throw from the DCLG offices, was a popular haunt for the department's civil servants.
A total of £21,692 was spent there last year, made up of £16,959 for events, £1,999 on food, £932 for accommodation and £1,801.20 for "learning and development services". The department also spent £5,145 on an event at the five-star Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London.
The DCLG's major hotel-related expense saw it handing over nearly £315,000 to hotel booking company Redfern Travel.
The accounts also reveal that DCLG splashed out £12,948 on catering at Manchester United Football Club, provided more than £10,000 of business for Compass Group's Eurest division and spent almost £115,000 on food with its main contract caterer, Mitie. The department also paid Leeds City Council more than £50,000 for food.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: "This department, like the rest of Whitehall, needs to look at where every penny is going and getting this data out in the open will help that process.
"The data is already highlighting how we need to do things differently. That means spending more carefully, getting better deals and asking ourselves at every turn whether every purchase is needed and whether it provides value for the taxpayers' pound. Looking at last year's spending it is clear that there is room for improvement."
By Daniel Thomas
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