21st Jan, 2019

Council chiefs slammed for 'champagne-swilling' £18k trip to Cannes

Felix Nobes 21st Mar, 2018 Updated: 21st Mar, 2018

SOLIHULL council leaders have been slammed for a ‘champagne-swilling’ £18k trip to Cannes.

A lavish visit to the annual property investment conference – Mipim – has angered residents and opposition councillors.

Critics branded it excessive for £17,940 of tax-payers money to be spent on sending four representatives on the trip.

But the council claim the conference is an opportunity to network and attract investors for upcoming projects in Solihull.

They say it is especially important given the benefits the development of UK Central Solihull and the HS2 hub will bring to the borough.

Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull council and Perry Wardle, the assistant director of growth and development, accompanied council leader Bob Sleigh and deputy leader Ian Courts to the conference.

The event ran from March 12 to 16.

Residents and councillors have called into question the necessity of so many representatives taking this trip at a time of cuts to local government and adult social care – used as an explanation for April’s 3.9 per cent rise in council tax.

It was previously reported the trip cost around £9,000 but this is the total figure for the costs of just the two councillors.

The Observer can reveal the true cost for all four representatives is closer to £18,000.

Angry resident Carole Robertson said: “How can they possibly justify spending £9,000 on a jolly to the Riviera when we as rate payers have to face another rise in our rates, roads need repairing after the awful weather etc. Solihull residents deserve better than this from their council.”

Solihull Ratepayers Association also condemned the trip on Twitter: “Not so cash strapped Solihull council’s chief executive Nick Page and his deputy this week attended Cannes International Property Show – cost to council taxpayers £9,000.”

The costs for the four Solihull representatives’ accommodation amounted to £8,240, while flights cost £2,200.

A further £7,500 fee was paid by Solihull council to become a ‘destination partner’.

This means the council was recognised as an investment opportunity in the events programme and representatives could host presentations at the conference.

A council spokesperson said they hope to get the ‘destination partner’ cost funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority but this has not yet been arranged.

Solihull Liberal Democrat leader, councillor John Windmill, said: “Did two Tory councillors have to attend this ‘champagne-swilling’ event in Cannes, when Solihull was sending two well-qualified officers already?

“We agree that Solihull should attend important meetings with developers

“Major investments near Solihull’s HS2 station will help fund our social services and road repairs in future.

“But is this needed at a time when budgets are squeezed and austerity means a 4 per cent increase in council tax this year?”

A council spokesperson said: “The purpose of the visit is for Solihull Council to raise the profile of the investment opportunities within the Borough on an international stage, central to the strategy for UK Central Solihull.

“Solihull attends as an integral part of the Midlands UK delegation, supported by the regional local authority areas and Local Enterprise Partnerships, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for International Trade.”

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