Suffolk County Council staff take 175 journeys abroad

THOUSANDS of pounds have been spent on sending council employees abroad, as new data reveals the far flung places they have travelled to.

The figures, which was released by Suffolk County Council following a Freedom of Information request, shows that county council employees have embarked upon a total of 175 trips abroad to 28 countries since the beginning of January 2005.

In total, trips to foreign destinations since 2005 have cost a total of �97,994.

Almost 50pc of this was funded through the county council, with �23,804 paid by contributing sources including, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Interreg fund scheme.

Destinations have included Denmark, Italy, Romania and Latvia, while one employee was sent on a five day trip to Boston to complete a five day course as part of a masters degree. Costing the county council �2,000, they said the officer was now putting his training into use.

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In addition, �26,724 was partially fundraised for trips, with the county council also stumping up a proportion of the cost. The breakdown of the levels of contribution from the council was not revealed.

The fundraising meant that Children and Young People's Services could venture on a total of 28 trips.

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Turkey, Bulgaria, Africa and Canada were amongst the destinations, along with a trip to Jamaica which saw a social worker travel solo to complete a child's adoption.

A county council spokesman said that one trip to Africa, which cost �16,000, was mainly funded through the children partaking in the trip raising money. He said that the reason for the trip was to take eight children in care to visit orphanages in Africa.

A handful of trips were made to locations including Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium, for the Power Cluster Project – a programme developing offshore wind power in the North Sea region.

Almost �500 was forked out to visit an InterTraffic Exhibition in Amsterdam to consider the best digital speed camera for use in Suffolk. The trip which lasted three days took place in April 2008.

Four trips were made to Nice, France, by the Passenger Transport Department, to get training on Real Time Passenger Information system at a total cost of �4,135.

The fire service's chief fire officer was sent on a trip to South Africa in February 2010, for a leadership course which was organised by the National School of Government – the plane ticket cost �785

Councillor Jane Storey, the county council's portfolio holder for Resource Management and Transformation, said that trips abroad were only made when no alternative option is available.

She said: 'All departments will have had to provide a strong business case to justify officers making foreign trips as part of their overall duties.

'All such budget requests are judged on a case by case basis and only where it is considered necessary - or where no alternative is available - is permission granted.

'It is important to stress that these trips were made over a six year period, and for a variety of reasons - so it would be wrong to view this amount as a recent, or isolated, example of expenditure.'

Examples of trips

- September 2008 – Aarhus, Denmark – to present a paper to annual conference of the Association of Environmental Archaeologists – �298

- February 2008 – Nice, France – A Site Acceptance Test for Ipswich's Real Time Passenger Information system – �962

- May 2009 – Bruges, Holland, – to participate in a 'Dry Ports' seminar. Relevant to Port of Felixstowe and allied development – �449 paid for by Haven Gateway

- March 2009 and July 2009 – Klass, Germany – to visit company building new appliances – no cost to the county council

- October 2006 – France and Germany – A study tour of libraries – paid for by individual concerned.

- June 2008 and December 2008 – Dublin, Ireland – trips made by the Trading Standards department to investigate crimes. Investigations were not connected but involved a visit to the Ebay headquarters – �1,016

- March 2006 – Germany – Study tour of waste treatment plants – majority funded by DEFRA, Suffolk County Council contributed �2,500. The County Council used budget airlines, Air Berlin and Ryan Air. All accommodation and meals and transfer travel in Germany were provided by DEFRA.

- March 2011 – Denmark – To attend a POWER Cluster Project development meeting – �432 – half of which was funded through Europe.

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