Councils attacked for ‘unjustified’ use of premium class flights

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Local authorities have spent £6.8m on flights since 2015, with Sheffield upgrading more of its staff to premium and business class cabins than any other council in the region.

A report by the TayPayers’ Alliance found the authority had paid £63,000 for 118 flights, which included five business class journeys and six premium economy tickets. Some 52 of the flights were outside Europe.

Excluding offshore councils, the highest spending was Manchester, which paid £199,000 for 475 flights, but none was premium class.

The report’s author, Duncan Simpson, said: “A small minority of councils require regular use of aircraft. There is, however, no justification for flying in business or first class.”

Sheffield’s spending on premium tickets was matched by Liverpool and Sunderland, with only Essex and Cardiff paying for more.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said it was “shocking” that money was being “misspent by some local authorities in this way”.

He added: “These 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.”

The second biggest spender in Yorkshire was Leeds City Council, which paid £47,000 for 135 flights, none in premium class.

A council spokesman in Sheffield said officials “always seek to travel economy as a matter of policy and principle”, but added: “There have been a handful of occasions, where because of a lack of availability of economy seats, it has been necessary to travel premium economy.”