Stephen?

The Echo reported yesterday on an expensive County Council trip to the US:

A TRIP to the USA attended by south Essex politicians spiralled more than ?40,000 over budget, the Echo can reveal.

Essex County Council has defended the costs of its week-long trip to Jamestown, Virginia, saying it helped two Essex companies strike deals – with each other.

Nine councillors went on the trip to Virginia in June last year as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of English settlement.

The visit was supposed to cost ?24,860 including business class flights, with ?6,550 to be paid for by various sponsors.

Among the delegates were council leader Lord Hanningfield, Rayleigh councillor Stephen Castle, who is responsible for regeneration, and Basildon Labour group leader Paul Kirkman.

However, a Freedom of Information request by the Echo reveals a problem with the flight led to them buying more expensive BA business class flights both ways at the last minute, totalling ?39,470.

The total cost to taxpayers was ?61,950 – or ?7,422 a head for the nine councillors who visited.

Sad to say, when we mentioned this story to someone in Rayleigh today, their response was “Stephen Who?”

  • County Council affects us a good deal, unfortunately we get to hear little of it in the press who either concentrate on very local issues or national ones.