The Department for Education spent more than £11,000 on canapés and booze for the launch event of its climate change strategy – but civil servants were barred from the buffet.
Nadhim Zahawi launched his education sustainability vision – which included a new natural history GCSE – at the Natural History Museum on Thursday evening last week.
Attendees included adventurer Bear Grylls and Doug Gurr, the museum’s director. While the museum waived its fee for hosting the event, the DfE had to cover catering for the 200 to 250 guests, a spokesperson said.
Taste Studios, trading as “The Recipe”, was given a £11,480 contract to provide the food – about £46 a head. Taste describes itself as a “premium caterer” for “some of the largest and most prestigious events” in London.
Canapés listed on its website include seared duck breast served on sweet potato polenta cake, decorated with comfit cherries.
Or rolled wing of skate with summer truffle stuffing and crispy celeriac sticks. The government said it had to use a caterer from the museum’s list of accredited suppliers.
Staff were “asked not to eat or drink [at] the event” as they were there for work and not as invitees. The Civil Service Code says officials must carry out their “fiduciary obligations responsibly”, making sure public money is used “properly and efficiently”.
The launch “brought together individuals and organisations who can help us implement our strategy in order to galvanise support from them – whether through funding, resources, driving public support and awareness, or encouraging youth engagement”, said a spokesperson.
The government has been on a money-saving mission in schools and colleges – sending in experts to help leaders cut costs. One adviser told a school in 2019 to limit lunch portions for pupils.