Taxpayers foot bill for council travel

Super Voyager, which would run on a Blackpool to London line
Super Voyager, which would run on a Blackpool to London line

Fylde coast councils have spent tens of thousands of pounds on sending councillors to meetings, new figures reveal today.

An investigation carried out by The Gazette found Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde councils – who are all having their funding slashed by central Government – spent taxpayers’ money to pay for their representatives to attend meetings outside of their areas.

Our Freedom of Information request revealed Blackpool Council has spent £28,967 on sending councillors to meetings and conferences outside of the resort, £9,652 on accommodation, and £31,218 on travel and subsistence between April 2009 and the end of February 2014.

Wyre Council has spent £28,648 on internal and external training, including conferences, on its 55 councillors since 2008/09, and Fylde Council spent £4,814 on travel and accommodation in the past five years.

Fylde coast council tax campaigner Derek Bunting, of Bispham, said: “My first reaction would be to question the need. I’ve queried this before because it’s a big expense, and I’m told it’s the Government who keep introducing 
various charges.”

James Sorah, of campaign group Blackpool Against the Cuts, added: “Councillors shouldn’t be out of pocket for carrying out their council 

“I just hope all the journeys were absolutely necessary.

“Some of these will be quite important meetings that people need to go to because councils need to be trained and sometimes that will mean travelling.”

Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils must not forget that every penny spent has been earned by someone and then handed over in tax.

“It is extremely important that councils do whatever they can to keep these costs down, perhaps by looking at conference venues within the offices or holding virtual meetings.”

But Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said his council’s 
figures were low.

He said: “As everyone will see from the figures our spend in this area is kept very low - around £12,000 per year.

“We also have a policy which ensures taxpayers do not foot the bill for first class rail travel.

“While it is important to engage with other authorities and the Government and work together with other areas to ensure joined up thinking, we try to keep costs to a minimum.”

A spokeswoman for Wyre Council added: “We have strict criteria in place around who can attend training events and conferences and travel outside the North West is only considered when there is no local alternative.

“Where appropriate, a 
policy of sharing the knowledge avoids the need for 
multiple attendees.”

A spokesman for Fylde Council added: “Before committing to spending any money our councillors ask themselves if they would spend the money if it was their own.

“We have kept the total very low and will continue doing so.”