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Town hall bosses slammed for money wasting Beijing jolly’

PUBLISHED: 17:49 20 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:12 25 August 2010

CONTROVERSY: Council leader Chris Roberts and Mr Wang Chengguo, Deputy Chief of the People’s Government of Chongwen District, at the launch of the Destination Greenwich exhibition on Thursday.

CONTROVERSY: Council leader Chris Roberts and Mr Wang Chengguo, Deputy Chief of the People’s Government of Chongwen District, at the launch of the Destination Greenwich exhibition on Thursday.

A COUNCIL has been blasted for wasting tax payers money after spending £14,000 to send six delegates to the Beijing Olympic Games.

A COUNCIL has been blasted for 'wasting tax payers' money' after spending £14,000 to send six delegates to the Beijing Olympic Games.

Greenwich council paid for six delegates, including council leader Chris Roberts, to fly business class to Beijing to 'help promote Greenwich' last Wednesday.

Joining Mr Roberts on the trip were Olympics member John Fahy, Chief Executive Mary Ney, Director of Culture Frances Dolan, Head of Greenwich Olympic and Paralympic Unit Ray Gerlach and Head of Communications Katrina Delaney.

Conservative leader in Greenwich council, Spencer Drury, said that the seven-day 'jolly' has taken funds away from recruiting a Head of Tourism.

And he slammed the council for booking the trip after taking a delegation to the Olympic host city only last year.

Mr Drury said: "I think the vast majority of people will think it is a waste of money.

"For six of them to go, when they only went out last year, seems an astonishing thing to do. I am sure they are enjoying themselves.

"To take six people looks like a jolly.

"Already there are promotional events planned in Greenwich and I don't think much promotion of the borough can go on in Beijing while the Games are on.

"To say this is to promote Greenwich is wrong as the £14,000 has come out of a pot which was for a travel and tourism post."

However, council members have defended the scheme, claiming that the delegation stayed at the Chongwen District paying for food and accommodation themselves.

A letter by Chief Executive Mary Ney, leaked to the Times, defended the decision to fly business class.

It read: "I believe this is entirely warranted as we are travelling overnight on a 14-hour trip and our programme requires us to be involved in business meetings from the moment we land.

"We have no rest days to recover from jet lag and staff will be working throughout. The overall cost estimate is £14,000 and has been held against the delayed recruitment of the Head of Tourism post."

The delegation travelled to China to promote the borough as a 'world-class destination'.

Mr Roberts and his team launched the Destination Greenwich Exhibition at the Temple of Yuanchonghuan, Longtanhu Park, Chongwen District, Beijing, last Thursday.

Greenwich will host nine sports in the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, including basketball and gymnastics in the O2 Arena and equestrian events in Greenwich Park.

A spokesperson for Greenwich council said: "The purpose of the trip is to learn about the impact of the Games in preparation for 2012 as well as to promote tourism, inward investment, educational and cultural exchange.

"The Olympic Games provide a unique focus on Greenwich which the council is determined to use to promote the prosperity of the borough and its residents.

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