Teams toured Europe on rubbish fact-finding tour

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A COUNCIL spent almost £10,000 sending officers and elected members to a string of destinations across Europe while deciding how to deal with its residents’ household rubbish.

North Lincolnshire Council paid for five and six-man teams of employees and elected councillors to take trips to Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and even the Isle Of Wight while preparing to sign a new £250m long-term contract for dealing with domestic waste in the local area.

All the foreign trips took place over a 15-month period between December 2008 and February 2010.

The council said the fact-finding missions were essential to making the right decision on how to deal with North Lincolnshire’s household waste, describing the £10,000 total cost of the trips as a “small price to pay” in the context of agreeing a contract which would serve the area for the next quarter of a century.

The trips taken by up to six councillors and officers at a time, included three days in the city of Bremen, in north-west Germany, at a conference discussing how rubbish can be burnt to make heat and electrical energy, and two days at Valladolid in northern Spain inspecting a biological treatment plant.

There were also two days in Amsterdam visiting an organic waste facility, costing £1,600 for two councillors and three officers, and single-night trips to visit waste plants in Slovenia and Zurich which cost the taxpayer £1,500 and £750 respectively.

A two-day trip to the Isle of Wight in June 2009, for three councillors and three officers, cost a further £1,000 in rail fares, ferries and hotel accommodation.

The council has still not made a final decision over the future of the area’s waste, having narrowed its decision down to two preferred bidders for the long-term contract who made final submissions last April.

An announcement is expected later this year.

A North Lincolnshire Council spokeswoman said: “The value of the new residual waste treatment contract is £250m.

“The total of £10,000 is just a fraction of this cost, and is a small price to pay for a major contract that will deal with the area’s waste over the next 27 years.

“It is vital that when dealing with a contract of this magnitude, we get it right.

“The visits were valuable in helping us do that, and we gained a lot of knowledge to help us move forward with the project.

“The choice of technologies offered by bidders was wide, and it was right and proper that the council made an informed decision on the choice of the preferred solution.

“The fact-finding visits were not undertaken until we had detailed proposals and we were down to eight bidders for the two contracts.”

She added that the visits had cross-party attendance from council members and were disclosed to the local press beforehand. She also said cost savings had been achieved in some cases by making bookings through money-saving websites and using officers’ personal credit cards where appropriate.