The Taxpayers’ Alliance has slammed the outgoing Tory-led Cheshire West and Chester Council for spending more than £11,000 on ‘a glorified jolly to the capital’ for an awards ceremony.

CWaC recently attained ‘highly commended’ in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards and won the Environment award for its innovative campaign to improve students’ attitudes to waste and recycling.

But a Freedom of Information response to The Chronicle shows the cost of sending a 25-strong group of councillors, officers and a guest to the London bash was £11,261. This included rail travel, an overnight stay at the London County Hall Premier Inn at a cost of £155.75 per person and delegates’ fees of £275 each for most of the group.

Council leader Cllr Mike Jones and Charlie Seward, director of growth and prosperity, both travelled by first class rail, which was described as a ‘late booking’ and the ‘cheapest fare available at the time’.


Andy Silvester, campaign director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be furious that the council has turned what should be a good news story into a sorry tale of wasteful spending on a swanky awards bash. It is frankly ludicrous that the council has taken so many people on a taxpayer-funded jamboree when they should be focussing on finding necessary savings. It is impossible to justify spending so many residents’ council tax on a glorified jolly to the capital, and this kind of wasteful behaviour must be consigned to the past.

‘The Chronicle should be applauded for uncovering this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money.’

Invited guest Christine Skeldon, recycling engagement officer, who works for Kier, saw her £489 expenses covered by CWaC. The 25-strong group also included councillors Stuart Parker (culture and economy) and deputy lord mayor Hugo Deynem plus head of strategic commissioning Alistair Jeffs, strategic commissioning director Mark Palethorpe and senior manager (waste and recycling) Steve Bakewell.

Not the first time

This is not the first time the council has been criticised for spending money on attending award ceremonies. Two years ago Labour councillors slammed CWaC when it spent £10,000 sending a group to an awards event hosted by the Municipal Journal at an upmarket London hotel. The council won an award for “excellence in democratic services” as well as receiving recognition for its Streetscene service and other CWaC teams.

But ex-councillor Ben Powell, Labour resources spokesperson at the time, said: ‘We are pleased the council has won these awards and feel strongly the staff involved should be recognised for their hard work. However, spending this sum on such an expensive trip while the council is experiencing severe financial constraints beggars belief. From the council taxpayers’ point of view, it is extravagant and wasteful.’

Cllr Justin Madders, then leader of the Labour group and now MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: ‘Which councillor sanctioned this? And how can they demonstrate this is the best use of public money?

‘In straightened financial times there are very difficult choices to be made about the council’s spending. For example, I believe that the resources spent on this trip would have been better used on two years of rent-free storage facilities for the foodbank – a service that helps our poorest and most vulnerable residents.’

CWaC spokesman Ian Callister explained that the 25-strong delegation was because the council was ‘up for several awards’ and ‘representatives of the relevant departments travelled’.