The budget cuts that face government at all levels mean very strict controls on money leaving the council's coffers. It barely seems to matter (with honourable exceptions) whether or not the money spent would have accrued genuine benefits - or even saved money - in the future. With some expenditure it may be straightforward to estimate the future benefits and confidently make the investment, but not all expenditure is so lucky.
An example springs to mind which may seem trivial, but it is illustrative. Staff in many organisations complain of lack of communication both up and down and across organisations, and so one way this is tackled is away-days, and in the public sector they are being banned - even just the cup of tea and power point ones. It makes it appear that it is accepted that these were a waste of money if we scrap them to save money - and the problem is the benefits are not too easy to quantity, even if the increased morale that comes from being included and from "bonding" is noticeable and intuitively oils the wheels and yields greater efficiency / effectiveness. It is more trenchant to point out that money/profit is no respecter of human values, but in the public sector, even a financial return on investment doesn't seem to be enough.