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The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) has revealed the cost of flights by local authorities in Hampshire over the last two years.
Their findings show that twelve councils in the county continue to use air travel and spent a total of £135,000 on flights over those two financial years. There are stark differences in the amounts spent by different authorities, with two councils spending no money on flights at all.
The key findings of this research are:
-More than £135,000 was spent on flights by councils in Hampshire between April 2009 and November 2011
-Southampton City Council spent the most with a total of £55,687 -they say they needed to send people to meetings to help improve things like childcare services.
-Only 2 councils, Hart District and Havant Borough, did not pay for any flights
-East Hampshire District and Fareham Borough Councils spent £342 on flights to attend a Local Government Association conference in Leeds
-Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council spent almost £12,000 on flights to EU conferences paid for by taxpayers through EU budgets
-Hampshire County Council spent £45,000 on flights, including £1,395 to send staff to an Assembly of European Regions Bureau meeting
-Test Valley Borough Council spent £431 to send an employee to Chicago to attend the International Institute of Municipal clerks' conference
-Eastleigh Borough Council spent over £500 on flights to send staff on Arts and Tourism training
More than £5,500 was spent on flights for on twinning visits between April 2009 and November 2011.
This includes £2,168 by Fareham Borough Council visiting Vannes in France and Pulheim in Germany; £1,696 spent by Gosport Borough Council visiting Royan in France; and £1,457 by Rushmoor Borough Council visiting Oberursel in Germany
Hampshire County Council spent £101 on a flight to Brussels on a fact-finding visit for a new member of staff to increase their knowledge of EU opportunities to help secure additional grants.
John Henvest, Hampshire TPA activist, said:
"It is shocking that some council staff have been jetting around at taxpayers' expense. These local authorities need to find millions in savings in the coming years and with modern technology like video conferencing they needn't spend large sums of taxpayers' money on plane tickets. It is great that two authorities in Hampshire were prudent and didn't spend a penny of taxpayers' money on flights, however, others need to control the amount being spent on air travel."
In a statement, Southampton City Council said:
“The safety of vulnerable children is a major priority for Southampton City Council. We have been improving the safeguarding of children across the city and investing substantial effort and resource into achieving this. As the Tax Payer’s Alliance recognises the majority of this money was to pay for social workers to under-take critical child protection activity like attend fostering meetings, safeguarding meetings, moving vulnerable children to the homes of far away relatives, and other social work related assessments across the country, and occasionally abroad.
“The council is committing more resources into safeguarding to make absolutely sure the interests of our vulnerable children and young people comes before everything else.
“The other significant area of spend was on economic development. We have plans to create 20,000 new jobs inthe city through more than £2billion of investment over the next 25 years. Southampton is the biggest business hub in the south and we will do all we can to attract national and international business to the city which help the city economy to thrive. We must leave no stone unturned increating more jobs for our residents. The work we have done to secure European funding has delivered millions of pounds worth of investment to the city -meaning that the relatively small amount of money spent on flights has more than paid for itself.
“Because of the council’s focus on continuing to improve the safeguarding for children while focussing oncreating more jobs in the city, some expenditure on air travel is inevitable.
“However, Southampton City Council makes absolutely sure that every pound of taxpayers’ money isspent carefully. We are at the forefront of local authorities who are cutting out waste. This year alone around £9 million will be saved on efficiencies, rather than slashing services. The amount of directors at the councils has been cut in half and higher earning managers have had their pay reduced by the most.”