Public servants in Yorkshire live it up at our expense

January 31, 2011 2:08 PM

I once heard a joke which asked how many councillors does it take to change a light bulb?  The answer is 30. One to change the light bulb and 29 to go on an essential fact finding mission to the Caribbean to find out how it's done there! Sounds far fetched, doesn't it? Not when you read some of the recent revelations in the Yorkshire Post.

The Yorkshire Post sent Freedom of Information requests to councils and other public bodies in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire to find out how much of our money they spent on travel and accommodation. Amazingly, North Lincolnshire Council spent almost £10,000 sending councillors and officers across Europe to help them decide how to deal with residents' rubbish. Five and six man teams went to Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. The council says these were essential fact finding missions, and described them as a small price to pay! Are they expecting us to believe they couldn't study councils closer to home? Can they not communicate by e-mail and teleconferencing? But this is just the start of this expenses story.

Doncaster NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) spent £5000 sending three executives to Vancouver to study the Canadian healthcare system. The chief executive of Hull NHS PCT flew club class to Mumbai, India as part of a government-led Top Management Programme. His justification for travelling club class was he was advised to do so to ensure he wasn't too tired when he arrived in India, otherwise he wouldn't be able to get the maximum benefit from the course.

Other revelations include stays in expensive London hotels, such as the Crown Plaza in Buckingham Gate, so a councillor and officer from Craven District Council could be near Buckingham Palce to attend a Royal Garden Party. Hull City Council has spent £37,000 on flights and a further £227,000 on hotel bills in the last three years, and Richmondshire District Council spent almost £5000 on flights and hotels for an interim chief executive. Amazingly, he was only in charge of the authority between April and August 2007.

Despite all of this, councils and the NHS feel they have done nothing wrong. They say they always ensure the best value for taxpayers' money. Well, let me tell them this. When I travel on behalf of the TPA, I always make sure I get the cheapest rail travel possible. I go onto various websites to find the best hotel deals, and stay in budget hotels. If you are travelling to London and have to stay overnight, you can find 3* hotels in or very close to central London for under £100 a night, and this is at short notice. All you have to do is spend a little time searching for the best deals. Where there's a will, there's a way. They would do it if they were spending their own money, and it's what they should be doing when their spending ours.I once heard a joke which asked how many councillors does it take to change a light bulb?  The answer is 30. One to change the light bulb and 29 to go on an essential fact finding mission to the Caribbean to find out how it's done there! Sounds far fetched, doesn't it? Not when you read some of the recent revelations in the Yorkshire Post.

The Yorkshire Post sent Freedom of Information requests to councils and other public bodies in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire to find out how much of our money they spent on travel and accommodation. Amazingly, North Lincolnshire Council spent almost £10,000 sending councillors and officers across Europe to help them decide how to deal with residents' rubbish. Five and six man teams went to Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. The council says these were essential fact finding missions, and described them as a small price to pay! Are they expecting us to believe they couldn't study councils closer to home? Can they not communicate by e-mail and teleconferencing? But this is just the start of this expenses story.

Doncaster NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) spent £5000 sending three executives to Vancouver to study the Canadian healthcare system. The chief executive of Hull NHS PCT flew club class to Mumbai, India as part of a government-led Top Management Programme. His justification for travelling club class was he was advised to do so to ensure he wasn't too tired when he arrived in India, otherwise he wouldn't be able to get the maximum benefit from the course.

Other revelations include stays in expensive London hotels, such as the Crown Plaza in Buckingham Gate, so a councillor and officer from Craven District Council could be near Buckingham Palce to attend a Royal Garden Party. Hull City Council has spent £37,000 on flights and a further £227,000 on hotel bills in the last three years, and Richmondshire District Council spent almost £5000 on flights and hotels for an interim chief executive. Amazingly, he was only in charge of the authority between April and August 2007.

Despite all of this, councils and the NHS feel they have done nothing wrong. They say they always ensure the best value for taxpayers' money. Well, let me tell them this. When I travel on behalf of the TPA, I always make sure I get the cheapest rail travel possible. I go onto various websites to find the best hotel deals, and stay in budget hotels. If you are travelling to London and have to stay overnight, you can find 3* hotels in or very close to central London for under £100 a night, and this is at short notice. All you have to do is spend a little time searching for the best deals. Where there's a will, there's a way. They would do it if they were spending their own money, and it's what they should be doing when their spending ours.

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