Anger over costly council trips
JET-setting Suffolk County Council officials have spent more than £25,000 on dozens of foreign trips in the past two years, it has emerged.The figures have been revealed at a time when the authority is pushing through a £22million package of cuts, which could see services axed and vulnerable people hit.
JET-setting Suffolk County Council officials have spent more than £25,000 on dozens of foreign trips in the past two years, it has emerged.
The figures have been revealed at a time when the authority is pushing through a £22million package of cuts, which could see services axed and vulnerable people hit.
Last night, campaigners questioned the need for such spending when finance bosses are looking to slash budgets in various areas, including adult care, schools and roads.
But the council said the 76 trips undertaken by councillors and council employees over a two-year period are vital in learning new skills and attracting extra investment.
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Jane Storey, portfolio holder for resources, finance and performance, said: “All foreign visits must demonstrate a clear business need before they are approved.
“No one place has the monopoly on good ideas. By visiting other countries we learn a lot from their work and bring back good practice to benefit the services we provide in Suffolk.
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“In many cases, the travel is at least partly funded by other organisations, such as central government or the European Union.
“Some of the trips are part of our economic development work with partners in Europe - taking part in these can help to bring sizeable amounts of European funding into the Suffolk community.”
Details of the visits were released to the EADT following a Freedom of Information request.
They include two trips, costing more than £3,000, made by chief executive Mike More to Boston, USA and Toronto, Canada for management courses. These seminars were also attended by some other leading local authority figures from Suffolk.
More than half of the foreign tours were made by the council's Environment and Transport Directorate, with various meetings and conferences attended.
Blair Gibbs, spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “Suffolk taxpayers will be shocked by these figures. Unfortunately, foreign junkets for council staff are now the norm.
“A new breed of local professional politicians is using our money to fly all over the world, with not much to show for it.
“What's worse is most of the overseas trips were by the Environment Directorate, which is supposed to be concerned about the damage done by airplane emissions.”
Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, added: “I would like to know how these trips benefit council taxpayers.
“If they are going to find some secrets that will save us some money, then great, but I'm not sure what benefits we get from them.
“I would like to see the trips justified. I wouldn't have thought they should be a priority for the council.”
The council's 76 trips included a visit to New York to recruit social workers, £2,500 on a tour of waste treatment plants in Germany and nearly £3,000 to a visit a shared space parking scheme in Holland.
The council's environment and transport department were represented at various meetings, including the North Sea Commission in various Scandinavian countries, an Offshore Wind Conference in Germany and a fact finding trip to Switzerland for future rubbish solutions.
The council also paid for 20 children in care to go on trips to Tenerife, Turkey and Bulgaria. Staff who went on the three trips raised cash to cover their costs.
The council is currently looking to slash various budgets, including adult care and community services, roads and transport and children, schools and young people's services.
Directorate Destination Details and Purpose Inclusive cost of travel and accommodation
Chief Executive Boston, USA Public Sector Senior Leader Development. £1,136.51
Chief Executive Toronto, Canada Meeting with North American Business Partners. £2,026.44
Public Protection Germany A day trip for 4 officers including, 2 union representatives, involved in the procurement of new fire appliances. £600
Public Protection Germany A 2-day trip for a single officer involved in the procurement of new fire appliances. £200
Environment and Transport Portugal Trip to inspect the build of new coaches. £102.74
Environment and Transport Aarhos, Denmark Transport Conference. £388.99
Environment and Transport Bremen, Germany EU Ecological Network (TEN) 3 Project partner meeting. €2,000 of which half was funded by the EU
Environment and Transport Emmen, Netherlands EU Ecological Network (TEN) 3 Project partner meeting and organising seminar. €2,500 of which half was funded by the EU
Environment and Transport Stenwijk, Netherlands EU Ecological Network (TEN) 3 Training on wetland corridors for 3 staff. Funded by EU
Environment and Transport Ostvold, Norway North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group meeting. £215.42
Environment and Transport Frysland, Netherlands North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group Conference. £291.33
Environment and Transport Frysland, Netherlands North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group meeting. £236.27
Environment and Transport Ringkoping, Denmark North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group Conference. £415.65
Councillor Ringkoping, Denmark North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group Conference. £415.65
Environment and Transport Goteborg, Sweden North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group meeting. £164.06
Environment and Transport Arendal, Norway North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group Conference. £389.81
Councillor Arendal, Norway North Sea Commission, Environmental Working Group Conference. £389.81
Environment and Transport Kristiansand, Norway North Sea Commission Economic Development group meeting £342.47
Environment and Transport Brussels, Belgium Trans-national partnership development work. £607.00
Environment and Transport Brussels, Belgium POWER (North sea wind power project) steering group meeting. Paid for by EU
Environment and Transport Bremen, Germany POWER meeting on dissemination strategy. Paid for by EU
Environment and Transport Bremen, Germany POWER meeting. €286.45 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Bremerhaven, Germany POWER visit. €800.66 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Netherlands GO-East Objective 2 Exchange visit Hotel, meals €799.20 Travel - £100.00
Environment and Transport Belgium POWER Project Meeting £250 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Worcester & Boston, Massachusetts, USA Leadership exchange organised by Cambridge Massachusetts Institute to foster knowledge exchange and economic development between Suffolk and Massachusetts. Cost to SCC £200
Environment and Transport Germany Offshore Wind Conference €319.17 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Kristiansand, Norway European Conference on Sustainable Goods and Passenger Transport £195 travel + expenses of 1,420 Norway Kroner
Environment and Transport Esbjerg, Denmark POWER meeting WP2 €296.50 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Zeeland, Netherlands North Sea Commission Annual General Assembly and Interreg North Sea Programme Conference £538.91
Environment and Transport Den Helder, Netherlands POWER project meeting €274.93 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Bremen, Germany POWER staff exchange and meeting with Bremen/Bremerhaven organisations on economic and environmental projects Travel - £108.98 Hotel: - €150.00 Costs partly reimbursed by EU
Environment and Transport West Flanders, Belgium Flemish Accord meeting Travel - £70.00 Hotel - £200.00
Environment and Transport Germany POWER steering group meeting Flight costs not available. Hotel: €50
Environment and Transport Groningen, Netherlands North Sea Programme new programme development and consultation event £176.55
Environment and Transport Ghent, Belgium 'Time to C' meeting and Flemish Accord meeting Hotel 2x €94.50 Eurostar £313.00
Environment and Transport Ostende, Belgium Flemish Accord meeting People carrier hire £237 + eurotunnel £177 Hotel €124 x 2
Environment and Transport Brussels, Belgium To attend a maritime cross-border cooperation programme workshop with the European Commission £278.91
Environment and Transport Germany POWER WP2 meeting €435 + £62.18 of which half paid by EU
Environment and Transport Luebeck, Germany Trans-national project development in climate change 2 officers Hotel - £100.00 Travel - £60
Environment and Transport Brussels, Belgium Brussels Office Open Day lectures 1 member paid for by the EU. Non-member: travel £59.00 & hotel €126.00
Environment and Transport Denmark Shared Space Project (People and Traffic) Councillors £403.64 plus Officers £159.45 of which half was paid by EU
Environment and Transport Germany Shared Space Project (People and Traffic) Officers £394.66 of which half was paid by EU
Environment and Transport Holland Shared Space Project (People and Traffic) Councillors £2,711.49 plus Officers £605.63 of which half was paid by the EU
Environment and Transport Germany Study Tour of Waste Treatment Plants 2 Councillors and 10 officers from Suffolk councils funded by Defra with a contribution of £2,500 from the County Council
Environment and Transport Finland Social Enterprise Development in the Reuse and Recycling Sector Conference 6 officers fully funded by the EU Social Fund
Environment and Transport Switzerland Fact finding for future rubbish solutions 2 officers funded by UK Trade & Investment and £880 from the County Council
Environment and Transport USA Speaker at California Resource Recovery Association on waste management in Suffolk. One officer paid for by the CRRA
Adult & Community Services Hameenlinna, Finland REALISE (Learning Disabilities) seminar. 6 officers all fully funded by the EU
Adult & Community Services Seville, Spain REALISE (Learning Disabilities) conference. 1 officer funded by the EU
Adult & Community Services Berlin, Germany REALISE (Learning Disabilities) conference. 3 officers all fully funded by the EU
Adult & Community Services Bologna, Italy LearnEast (Libraries) study workshop. 4 officers all fully funded by the EU
Adult & Community Services Uganda To research family programmes. 1 officer paid by the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers
Youth Offending Service Dublin Careworks (YOS Case Management System) User Forum. £160
Councillor Haarlam, Holland Meeting with North Sea Commission Chair of Economic Development Group. Ferry £199 Hotel £101 Cost of Pool car unknown.
Councillor Brussels, Belgium Europe & International Affairs Panel meeting. Eurostar £29.50 Hotel £101 Train Shenfield- London £12.25
Councillor Amsterdam North Sea Commission meeting Flight £90
Children and Young Persons Holland Leading a 3 day conference for Suffolk teachers to develop collaborative projects with partners schools from Holland and Belgium. 1 officer, 1 Teaching Assistant and a Councillor £229.62
Children and Young Persons Bruges, Belgium Accompanying a group of primary teachers to visit West Flanders schools as part of curriculum development and making school links. 2 officers £180.21
Children and Young Persons Bruges, Belgium Officer to meet with officers of 5 European regions to plan for October conference (above). £199.45
Children and Young Persons Bruges, Belgium 1 officer and 1 councillor to facilitate a 3 day Citizenship conference involving sixth formers from 3 Suffolk schools, incorporating visit to European Parliament £296.42
Children and Young Persons Bruges, Belgium 1 officer and 1 Councillor to meet new political representative of the Accord and to plan future projects £298.15
Children and Young Persons Ghent, Belgium 2 officers to participate in a working party to prepare Accord partnership events for schools. £232.65
Children and Young Persons Ghent, Belgium / Middleburg, Holland Officer and Councillor to attend working group and steering group of the Accord £388.99
Children and Young Persons Bruges, Belgium 15-18/11/04 Officer visit associated with work experience for Suffolk students £737.25
Children and Young Persons Evian and Poland Planning and inspection trips made in support of concert tours of Suffolk Youth Wind Band and Suffolk Youth Orchestra £1924.16
Children and Young Persons Spain /Italy Planning and inspection trips made in support of concert tours of Suffolk Youth Wind Band and Suffolk Youth Orchestra £971.08
Children and Young Persons Finland 1 officer led a group of teachers and head teachers to compare small schools Fully funded by the British Council
Children and Young Persons Amsterdam Part of Comenius project to obtain funding for a project on the induction and guidance of Newly Qualified Teachers Fully funded by the EU
Children and Young Persons Brussels Study visit on Quality in Education Fully funded by EEC Arion Study Visits fund
Children and Young Persons Nevada, USA Visit to gain wider perspective of urban schools, looking at positive impact for pupil achievement Fully funded by the Department for Education and Skills
Children and Young Persons New York, USA Recruitment of Social Workers. Costs incurred as part of overall recruitment process. No breakdown for this element is available.
Children and Young Persons Netherlands Teachers International Professional Development Programme visit accompanied by a Teaching Advisor Fully funded by the British Council.
Children and Young Persons Tenerife Children's Accommodation Service, 6 children and 5 staff. Staff costs funded by fundraising
Children and Young Persons Turkey Children's Accommodation Service, 7 children and 5 staff Staff costs funded by fundraising
Children and Young Persons Bulgaria Children's Accommodation Service, 7 children and 5 staff Staff costs funded by fundraising