By: Elliot Keck, investigations campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance
May was a month of bank holidays. Many took advantage and went away to soak up a bit of sun after a miserable month of April. But for many council officials and councillors there was no need to go away. They had already been away on a jolly to the alcohol-soaked real estate conference MIPIM, which takes place on the glamorous French Riviera every year in March.
At least £138,300 was spent on sending representatives to the event, where officials were photographed playing golf, visiting the beach and attending drinks receptions. At the same time, their Town Halls back home were preparing to send out the first council tax bills for the 2023/24 financial year, with most councils increasing rates by the maximum of 5 per cent (or 3 per cent in the case of district councils). Our research was published in the Daily Express.
Needless to say, any council spending thousands on a jolly right at the moment that they’re planning on hiking rates doesn’t have the best interests of residents at heart. Speaking of councils which don’t have the interests of residents front and centre of their work, South Cambridgeshire District Council announced in May that they would extend their four-day working week trial to March 2024, despite serious questions about the council’s performance. If this all goes wrong, then it’s taxpayers who will foot the bill. Our campaign got wall to wall coverage, and made the front page of the local paper.
Away from councils, the Brecon Beacons has recently changed its name to Bannau Brycheiniog. A shrug of the shoulders might suffice. But this involved more than just updating a website and Wikipedia page. Welsh taxpayers had to stump up £30,000 for the rebranding, including £1,500 on polo shirts and jackets with the new name. Our findings were published in The Telegraph.
Tune in for next month, when we’ll be revealing some eye-watering golden goodbyes and ancient technology on Whitehall.
If you suspect public bodies of wasting money and want us to investigate, let me know at [email protected]