Council boss asked to justify India trip

QUESTIONS have been asked about the cost and worth of a business trip to India by Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield and representatives from the county's cricket club.

Elliot Furniss

QUESTIONS have been asked about the cost and worth of a business trip to India by Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield and representatives from the county's cricket club.

Former England captain Graham Gooch and Essex County Cricket Club chief executive David East are among the party accompanying Lord Hanningfield on the trade mission in a bid to drum up commerce for the county.

One other organisation is being represented on the trip but it is unclear how it is being paid for, with organisers ExDRA - the Essex Development and Regeneration Agency - refusing to explain who has covered the cost.


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ExDRA is part funded by the Government and the county council but its inward investment programme which has arranged the trip - Invest Essex - is fully financed by the council.

Paul Martin, the marketing development manager for Invest Essex, said he was not prepared to disclose the nature of the funding for the trip.

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He said: “This programme (Invest Essex) is fully funded by Essex County Council as part of our commissioning agreement.

“We've been successful in attracting people over there. The council chaps are there to 'sell' Essex. It's really important that the civic element is there.

“Stephen Castle and Lord Hanningfield are over there as 'captains of the county' to tell people about Essex being a business environment.

“It's about stimulating business and making sure it comes into Essex.”

Julie Young, a member of the opposition Labour Group at County Hall, said she wanted to know who had footed the bill for the venture and why it had not been more widely publicised.

She said: “Who's paying for it? What is the purpose of the visit and what is it set to achieve? We've seen lots of trips around the globe and it's not often clear what benefits have come from them.

“We have got to try every means possible to bring us out of this global recession and if that means trips to India and it brings tangible evidence then people might thing it's a good thing to do - but we need to know.”

A spokesman for Essex County Cricket Club said its representatives were on a “joint venture” with the council with regard to looking at boosting tourism and business investment.

He said he would not be able to confirm who had paid for the trip until Mr East returned.

Council media manager Eleri Roberts confirmed that Lord Hanningfield and Stephen Castle, the cabinet member for economic development, regeneration and the 2012 Olympic Games, were on the mission but she was unable to confirm details of the cost.

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