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£11k spent on fact-finding trips to London slated as extravagant

Published date: 15 January 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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COUNCIL bosses have been slammed for their ‘extravagance’ after £11,000 was spent on two trips to London for senior officers.

An FoI revealed that Cheshire West and Chester Council spent the money on trips to the capital so senior officers could meet government officials to ‘swap ideas’.

The trips, which both had an overnight stay, took place in November and were organised for a total of 18 staff members at the council, including heads of departments and “rising stars”.

Officers went on the trips to meet national and local government colleges so they could swap ideas of how to deliver services in four main areas covering social finance, the media, economy, exports and growth and think tanks.

The decision to spend the money on the trips at a time of  budget cuts and possible job losses has been blasted by Cllr Ben Powell, shadow executive member for resources.

“I'm very concerned that the Conservative administration continue to prioritise extravagant spending of this nature at a time when we are seeing such deep cuts to the council’s budget, hitting services across the Borough,” said Cllr Powell.

“In their budget proposals, which they slipped out under the radar on Christmas Eve, the Tories admitted that they are planning up to 400 job losses over the next three years.

“It tells you everything you need to know about their priorities that spending like this continues at a time when such severe cuts are planned down the line.

“In addition to the information revealed in the FoI request, this year alone we’ve seen a further £10,000 spent on sending staff to an award ceremony and an astonishing £12,000 on an advertising supplement in a specialist magazine for senior council officers.

“My message is simple: We need to stop the extravagance and spend the money where it is needed.”

The council say the trips, which were authorised by the head of HR at CWaC and signed off by the chief executive, Steve Robinson, were designed to be “learning opportunities for heads of service and rising stars” with focuses on “emerging trends in policy and politics in general and centre-local relations and public innovation in particular” and would also “provide an opportunity to improve professional understanding and policy-making by providing the opportunity to meet with guests and presenters”.

CWAC spokesman Ian Callister said: “The people who went down have senior roles in this council which is at the cutting edge of delivering services in a new way.

“These were intensive days to meet people involved in government  to swap ideas.”

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