Paris conference trip by Blackpool councillors comes under fire

An artist's impression of the Central Station leisure development
An artist's impression of the Central Station leisure development
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Blackpool's Tory opposition  leader has criticised spending of more than £4,000 to send council representatives to a conference in Paris at a time when non-essental expenditure has been frozen by town hall finance chiefs.

It has emerged five representatives attended the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Expo Europe in Paris held between September 16 and 19.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn attended as part of the Blackpool Central Project with the £967 cost of his trip funded by the council.

Deputy leader Coun Graham Cain attended in his capacity as chairman of the Blackpool Operating Company Ltd, which runs the council-owned Sandcastle Waterpark, along with Sandcastle managing director John Child and two operational managers.

The total cost of £3,376 was met by the Sandcastle.

It comes after the council's executive agreed to continue its policy of "a one-year freeze on non-essential spend" at its last meeting.

Coun Williams said: "The council currently has an embargo on all unnecessary spending yet more than £4,000 was spent sending five individuals to an attraction exhibition in Paris.

"It’s okay the council trying to distance themselves from one of their own companies by stating the Sandcastle paid for four delegates but it's still local authority spending."

He added: "You can’t plead financial hardship on one hand then treat yourself to a holiday break on the other.

"I would be interested to learn what these delegates brought back from their little trip but I'm pretty sure that information will be commercially confidential and be kept in the council’s top secret drawer, which must be pretty full by now."

The IAAPA describes its expo as the "leading conference for the attraction industry" offering the chance to network with around 550 delegates.

Previously Blackpool Council has sent representatives to the IAAPA conference in Orlando, Florida, which is where the original deal for the £300m redevelopment of the Central Station site was signed in November 2016.