AddThis SmartLayers

Messenger runs second FOI probe on politicians' foreign trips

The Kent Messenger Group has exposed for a second time how foreign trips by county councillors are continuing to cost local taxpayers thousands of pounds.

Group political editor Paul Francis used the Freedom of Information Act to revisit the issue one year after the KM Group first disclosed how councillors were travelling the world.

The second request led to another exclusive story detailing how local politicians had racked up a £50,000 bill for trips that took them to a string of destinations across Europe and America for various conferences, seminars, fact-finding missions and trips to drum up business investment.

In its story, the newspaper reported how throughout 2005, members of KCC’s Conservative cabinet and several other leading councillors had once again crossed the Atlantic for visits to destinations in America that included Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Virginia and Washington. They also travelled widely throughout Europe for trips that took them to Rome, Prague, Cannes, Brussels, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The 30 or so trips included a four-day trip costing more than £6,000 to Virginia, America in November, during which – according to the county council “Kent was invited to join Virginian Indians at a Pow Wow meeting in order to negotiate their participation in an international festival at Gravesend.”

An earlier nine-day trip, during which councillors attended “the official signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between KCC and the Commonwealth of Virginia” cost £11,796.

As part of its coverage, the KM invited the council’s deputy leader Coun Alex King to write a first-person piece in which he argued the travels by councillors were an important part of the council’s drive to deliver ground-breaking services for residents and discover new ideas.

Paul said: “This shows the value of FOI in being able to revisit stories as well as unearth new ones. Repeating requests ‘one year on’ is a tactic well worth using.”