Council travel cost anger

Councillor Maxine Chew
Councillor Maxine Chew
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REVELATIONS the public purse has been used to fund councillors trips abroad to the tune of more than £120,000 have prompted anger on the Fylde.

A Freedom of Information request found the cash was spent by Lancashire County Council on hundreds of foreign and domestic trips since 2007.

Most of the travel, which included stays in top hotels in New York, Paris and Berlin, was carried out before 2009 under the previous Labour-controlled administration at county hall.

Council leader Geoff Driver said the travel budget had been slashed since his Conservative group came to power.

But campaigners on the Fylde are angry extravagance may have contributed to budget cuts.

The county council is reducing spending by £179m over the next three years.

Singleton district councillor Maxine Chew, who is protesting against threats to the WyldeFyre rural bus, said: “I’m absolutely appalled anyone could consider extravagant trips like this.

“I wonder if the councillors concerned would think the trips were important enough if it was their own money they were spending.

“There are elderly and disabled people who are losing their transport, their health services, and the very reasons which make life worth living, and these people have been throwing money around like millionaires.”

Brenda Pickup, of Wyresdale Road, Knott End, who along with her husband Roy has been protesting against free travel for pensioners axed on the Knott End ferry, said: “We’ve decided to boycott the ferry because we’re so angry about this, and if they have wasted money in the past, it makes it doubly worse.”

The trips, which the county council has refused to give a reason for, also included visits to Copenhagen, Brussels, Norway, Malaga, Amsterdam, Geneva and Krakow, as well as domestic travel to the likes of York and Ambleside.

Foreign travel for councillors was scrapped last year.

Coun Driver said: “We’ve put a strict policy in which has led to a significant reduction in county councillors’ travel expenses.”

He added trips were only allowed which were absolutely necessary and negotiated for the best price.

County Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of the Labour group at county hall, said trips had been aimed at benefiting the council but added “in hindsight, maybe there were times when it went too far”.