Clipper race council spent £1,000 a month on flights

A CITY council in one of the most deprived parts of Yorkshire has been spending around £1,000 a month on flights including trips to Africa, China and the USA.

Hull City Council has spent 37,000 on flights over the past three years plus a further 227,000 on hotel costs – though this second figure is understood to include conference and events bookings.

The spend on flights included more than 7,000 last year on trips related to Hull's involvement with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, including a 1,500 trip for officers to San Francisco and 900 flights to Beijing. A councillor also spent 1,200 flying to the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.

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The council said the trips aimed to set up trade links with other global ports and promote Hull's involvement in the famous race.

The authority also spent more than 8,000 last year flying a team of officers from its household waste department out to war-ravaged Sierra Leone in western Africa, to assist authorities set up waste collection and recycling systems. It also spent 2,500 on three flights to the Ivory Coast.

Flights to Europe for conferences and trade promotion trips included spending more than 2,000 for economic development officers to fly to Hamburg in February 2009.

Taxpayers' money has also been spent sending the city's Lord Mayor on foreign civic visits. Return flights to New York city for the mayor in May 2008 cost 870.

And in April 2010, taxpayers spent 350 on a flight to the port city of Sczcecin in Poland for the Lord Mayor to visit its Sea Days festival and a celebration of the classical composer Chopin.

The council's 227,000 expenditure on hotels was booked through an agency and the authority was unable to provide a breakdown of the individual hotels used.

In a statement, Hull City Council said: "We keep a keen eye on expenditure and have stringent spending processes in place.

"Flights and hotels are booked for a range of reasons, from conferences and courses where we learn and share good practice, and also for setting up trade links with other ports – such as during the Clipper race – or for inviting people to festivals, such as Freedom, to get support for funding and show off our city to those who may wish to invest.

"A significant proportion of flights and accommodation are subsidised by grants or other organisations."