AN MP has applauded council chiefs for curbing travel expenditure after figures showed the amount spent on staff trips abroad had fallen sharply.

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An Ipswich Star Freedom of Information request to Suffolk County Council found workers had made 44 foreign visits to 12 different countries between June 2011 and last month.

Destinations included Austria, Switzerland, Rwanda, Romania and Germany.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he was pleased more consideration was being taken to reduce unnecessary spending.

Last year, Mr Gummer blasted the council for “frivolous spending” after the cost of trips abroad for the six years leading up to May 2011 amounted to almost £100,000, with the county footing nearly half of the bill.

The latest figures show 16 of the 44 trips were made by Children and Young People’s Services, with the journeys usually being made to help assess children’s care needs.

In one case, two members of staff from the department were sent to Portugal to assess extended family members for a care plan. Similar trips were made to Lithuania and Belgium.

In total, the trips cost the county council £12,329, with an additional nine trips being funded through contributing sources including EU grants. The trips paid for by grants and funds totalled more than £4,300.

Mr Gummer said: “It is heartening to see the county council is getting on top of travel spending and only doing what is necessary.

“I think most people would agree that trips involving the care of children are important and should be taken with care.

“And it is good that almost all of the money being spent on these trips is for important reasons rather than frivolous wasting of money which was seen from previous trips abroad.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Foreign travel by county council staff is not something that happens frequently; however where it is genuinely necessary to deliver and improve services, it does happen.

“At all times, costs are kept to a minimum and they are very often covered by external organisations.

“It’s important to look at why these trips are, on occasion, made. Sometimes our social workers have to travel abroad to unite vulnerable children with their extended families.

“And sometimes our external funding team travels abroad to secure much needed investment in Suffolk. Any travel will be part of delivering the best possible services for Suffolk.”

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