The Mail on Sunday today reports on councils spending Council Taxpayers money to send councillors and officials to an awards ceremony organised by the Local Government Chronicle.
The event involved a dinner and Champagne reception. Some councils (such as mine who won last year) sent along reps as guests of sponsors which is fair enough. But others allowed the Council Taxpayer to pick up the tab.
A table of ten cost £2,200.
Barking and Dagenham Council £1,500. Islington Council more than £2,000 while Bournemouth Council paid £1,800.
There is some mystery concerning Liverpool. They claim there places were sponsored by grounds-maintenance company Glendale. But a spokesman was unable to explain how the council’s accounts show it made a £1,700 payment to publisher Emap, which owns the Local Government Chronicle, in January this year. Transparency means there is nowhere to hide.
Harrow sent one of the largest delegations with 27 people tucking in. I wonder if Cllr Mitzi Green, their Cabinet Member for Children's Services, was there – last week he blamed the Government for "almost criminal" funding cuts for youth services.
Conservative MP Priti Patel said:
"No one has done more to discredit local government than the LGC by staging this junket. Their stance is utterly hypocritical. How can they on the one hand attack government cuts but at the same time take taxpayers cash for a pointless jolly. "
Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said:
"I am shocked that on the day of the budget council bosses were living it up swilling champagne and eating fine cuisine at a top London hotel, all paid for by hard pressed taxpayers.
"It’s only a few short weeks since some of the same highly paid council bosses were in my office pleading poverty over their spending settlements. Not only is their behaviour hypocritical, it's insulting to their hardworking residents who are struggling in these tough economic times. It shows how out of touch some councils and Chief Execs are with the public.
"One of the first things these councils should do is reimbure the public purse and pay for this junket out of their own pocket."