Northants County Council spent £9,000 on Jamaica flights

The sunset in Montego Bay. Picture sent in by Russell Babb from Kettering.
The sunset in Montego Bay. Picture sent in by Russell Babb from Kettering.

Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council has spent almost £50,000 on flights in three years - including £9,000 on trips to Jamaica.

The council, which was forced to raid £12m of its reserves to balance its books last year, booked six return flights to Montego Bay.

Three of the 12 legs of the near 10-hour flight were in premium economy but a council spokesman insisted it wasn’t a jolly.

The spokesman said: “There are a variety of reasons local authorities purchase flights, including overseas recruitment and travel relating to our role as corporate parent to looked-after children.

“We do our best to get the best value for flights given that this is public money that is being spent.

“These figures are for a three year period up to the end of January this year.

“We have a very strict spending control process in place.

“Any spend has to go before a chief executive’s panel and only absolutely essential spend can be allowed.”

The spokesman was unable to go into further detail about the trips but it’s understood that none of the people who flew to Jamaica were councillors.

Three of the flights were booked for December 2015 with the remaining three booked for December 2017 -just two months after several libraries were earmarked for closure to cut costs.

The data, made public by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, shows the council spent £49,053 on 51 return European trips and 13 return trips outside Europe between January 2015 and February 2018.

Labour’s Cllr Mick Scrimshaw (Northall) said the council’s recording of finances meant it could be difficult to prove the spending was legitimate.

He said: “On the face of it it sounds ridiculous and it’s the sort of headline that sums up the council’s finances.

“But there is a fair question as to how money is recorded and what it is for.”

The only other council in Northamptonshire to spend a four-figure sum on flights was Northampton Borough Council.

They spent £1,354.49 on five return flights to Europe, one one-way flight to Europe and one return flight outside Europe.

Elsewhere Corby Council spent £337.99, East Northants Council spent £150.99 and Kettering Council spent £380.16.

Daventry District Council and Wellingborough Council purchased no flights and South Northamptonshire Council failed to respond to a request for data from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “For many families council tax is the largest monthly bill to pay, and it’s shocking that their hard earned money is being misspent by some local authorities in this way.

“These local authorities need to find millions in savings in the coming years and with modern technology like video conferencing they needn’t spend large sums of taxpayers’ money on plane tickets.”

Other notable expenditures in the country included Manchester City Council, who had two entries for £12,002 for flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific in October 2015.

Liverpool City Council took flights to Kabul, Somaliland, Basra, and Liberia.

And Sunderland City Council spent £26,584 on six business class flights to Tokyo.