26/10/2011 - Permalink

Council publishes air travel expenditure to give Shropshire residents the facts

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Shropshire Council spent only £5,791 on air travel over the past two financial years, and the details were published today (Wednesday 26 October 2011), as the council continues to openly share as much information on its activities and costs as possible with the public.

The figures show that flights paid for by the council were related to social workers pursuing court orders to protected vulnerable children who had been taken abroad.  Others were funded externally, at no cost to local taxpayers; for example, where they involve work by the council’s conservation team, to provide specialist expertise and help for developing countries which are seeking to improve their infrastructure.  A number of local schools also paid for flights for educational trips and events for local children, which were then reimbursed by parent or pupil contributions.

Leader of Shropshire Council, Keith Barrow, said:

“I hope people read through the figures and make up their own minds about how responsibly we are spending their council tax.  Sometimes overseas flights are unavoidable.  It is the council’s policy to sanction travel by air (economy class) only on an exceptional basis, where it can be shown that it is cheaper than other alternatives and in terms of the cost of staff time. 

“If you closely examine the figures, there have been only two fact finding events.  One of which, I attended at the cost of £60 for flights, and another which was attended by a member of staff to learn valuable new ways of delivering services, but we have cut these trips back to a minimum.  In fact, we have recently imposed a spending freeze on any attendance at conferences or external events, unless they can be shown to be absolutely vital and will lead to a clear and immediate benefit for the people of Shropshire, for example by helping us continue to cut our costs.

“We are going to continue publishing these spending figures on our website as part of our Open Data programme because I think it’s important the public can see how their council tax is being spent.  It’s very easy for campaign groups who may have their own motives to take figures out of context and grab some national headlines, but I think people will make up their own minds when they see the full facts.”

A spreadsheet showing the details has been published on the council website’s Information Requests section, which can be seen by clicking this link.