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Councillors fly off' with taxpayers' money

PUBLISHED: 13:12 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:49 25 August 2010

COUNCIL bosses have spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers money jetting off around the world, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

COUNCIL bosses have spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money jetting off around the world, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Greenwich council bosses spent the most compared to neighbouring Bexley, with an annual bill for foreign travel costing up to £18,491.81.

Councillors and officers at Greenwich racked up their most expensive bill on airfares when they sent six people to Beijing in November 2007 ahead of the Olympics, costing a staggering £14,023.20 on airfares alone.

They also sent six people to Berlin to 'study the city in preparation for future planning applications' studying the architecture and design of the capital city.

However, council delegates had already visited Berlin in August 2006 and last month as part of the borough's twinning scheme with a north-west district of the city called Reinickendorf.

Eltham councillor Nigel Fletcher, who is part of Greenwich's independent twinning committee, who get their flights paid for by the council, said: "I am not going to criticise foreign travel but it should be proportional and to send six people to Berlin to look at architecture is excessive.

"There is no reason why anyone would need to go. Town planning is a fairly abstract concept. And there is no need to go there to look at technical aspects. The council is in regular contact with the city anyway."

Nine trips abroad were taken by staff working with children in care. Seven of these were in Barcelona, one in the USA and one in Jamaica. The purpose of these trips included statutory reviews and escorting of minors.

A Greenwich council spokesperson said: "A small number of overseas trips were undertaken in 2007-08 by council officers and councillors in order to fulfil statutory obligations of the council and to promote the economic prosperity of the borough."

Out of the 338 British councils investigated, the Labour council came in the top 25 of the biggest spenders.

Neighbouring Bexley council came in at 67, spending £4,723 on airfares and £3,670 on subsistence costs.

Their most expensive trip was £5,618 for the then leader of the council Ian Clement to attend a leadership course in the USA, as reported in the Times.

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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