Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire County Council spends £42,000 on flights

A Lincolnshire council spent more than £42,000 on overseas flights for staff over two years.

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Lincolnshire County Council had made the spend between April 2009 and March 2011.

The council said £34,205 was spent on flights for fire service staff. It added rules had now been tightened.

Nottinghamshire County Council spent £16,814 and Leicestershire County Council spent £26,351 over two years.

'Didn't follow rules'

Tony McArdle, chief executive of Lincolnshire County Council, said the flights were for firefighters to travel to receive training as part of the international search and rescue programme.

"We have rules for doing all these things cost effectively and sadly one individual didn't follow the rules and has run up over 60% of this bill, which we're hugely disappointed about.

"If you take this one abuse out of it then we would have been near the bottom of the list."

Mr McArdle said the person responsible for the abuse, who has now left his position, had taken 12 flights to North America in business rather than economy class, which is against council rules.

"The system has been abused and we need to fix it.

"We've already put measures in place to very quickly tighten it up."

He said the county's fire service regularly took part in international search and rescue operations in disaster zones such as Haiti and Japan.

The survey conducted by the Taxpayers' Alliance, a pressure group which lobbies for lower taxes, found 48 councils in the Midlands had spent more than £290,000 on flights over two years.

'Necessary travel'

Leicestershire County Council said the majority of its money had been spent flying two children with extremely severe dyslexia and learning disabilities to a school in north-east England.

"Although there are nearer special schools for children with severe dyslexia, taking into account school fees and the cost of travel, this was the most cost-effective way of educating the two children," a council spokesman said.

Nottinghamshire County Council said a large number of its flights had been to reunite children in care with family members abroad.

It also spent £710 for three youth workers to accompany nine young people who were doing voluntary work in Albania in October 2009 as part of the National Police Aid Convoy.

"We have reintroduced the Administration Committee which is made up of a cross-party panel of councillors to consider proposed travel and accommodation costs in public, including all flights abroad. We only allow travel that is necessary," the council said.

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