September 20 2014 Latest news:
by Samantha Lewis
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Haringey Council’s ability to count has been thrown into question after it transpired the amount spent sending staff to Cannes cost the taxpayer triple the amount it originally claimed.
Last week, the council insisted only £3,000 of public money was used to fund the three-day trip to property conference MIPIM, hosted on a luxury yacht in the French Riviera.
But an investigation, called for by the Liberal Democrats, has revealed taxpayers will in fact be footing a £9,000 bill – with the total cost for the trip coming in at £22,000.
Indeed, the original £3,000 figure is only just enough to cover travel and accommodation expenses for cabinet member Cllr Alan Strickland and the director of regeneration Lyn Garner.
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Richard Wilson said: “Regeneration should be about improving the lives of ordinary local residents, not hobnobbing with wealthy developers on a luxury yacht in Cannes. This scandal shows just how out of touch Haringey’s Labour councillors are with local people.”
In a breakdown of the figures, the report shows the council received £13,000 in sponsorship from various private companies to send Cllr Alan Strickland and Ms Garner to Cannes.
Some £1,731 was spent on accommodation for two nights and £1,541 on travel in addition to the £18,800 price tag for attending the conference.
Haringey’s chief executive Nick Walkley covered his own expenses. Eyebrows have also been raised about the trip as it was not discussed with the council’s cabinet. The report put this down to a “genuine misunderstanding” of council protocol.
But the council has continued to defend its actions – pointing out the event, hosted by Arup, which has worked with them to develop regeneration plans in Tottenham, was attended by 43 authorities around the country.
At Monday’s full council meeting, council leader Cllr Claire Kober reiterated it was an important opportunity for them to meet with developers and investors.
She said: “I would argue that it is right that we were there and it is right that we are transparent about what we do. We are committed to publishing decisions and costs associated with them.”
Lee Valley Estates has backed up the council’s decision, saying it is “vital” Tottenham is represented at major evens like MIPIM to be taken seriously with major investors.
Neale Coleman, mayoral advisor on Tottenham, added: “MIPIM is a unique opportunity for public authorities to speak to potential investors about building new homes, bringing new jobs and supporting transport and social investment in areas like Tottenham.”
“It must make sense for Haringey to be taking advantage of that.”
The council was unwilling to be drawn on why it did not chose to attend the London conference later this year instead.