‘Tax-payers in St Edmundsbury should not have to pick up the excess costs of council hotel bills’

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A council has been accused of breaching its own rules over the amount it spent on hotel accomodation for two of its councillors.

Now Cllr David Nettleton is demanding that the money be paid back rather than coming out of the public purse.

He was speaking after it emerged that the council had spent £372.20 putting council leader Cllr John Griffiths up in a hotel for three nights so he could attend a Local Government Association (LGA) conference in Birmingham June.

Under the council’s own constitution it is limited to paying £80 a night.

Then in July the consitution was ‘breached’ when the council paid £300 to put Cllr Peter Stevens up at a rural conference in Windemere for three nights.

Cllr David Nettleton said he understood the accomodation for both had been booked by officers not the councillors.

But he said: “The taxpayer has lost out, the constitution has been breached.

“I think the public purse should be reimbursed.

“I know it is only £200 but it is the principle of the thing.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Council officers have powers delegated to them to use the resources allocated to their services in ‘the most efficient, effective and economic way’.”

She said this delegated power included hotel stays, and that the council will discuss in February whether its spending limits need to increase.

Cllr Nettleton said £80 was not ‘necessarily’ the right amount but said it should be debated rather than ‘breached’.

Cllr Stevens meanwhile backs an increase.

“In many cases the £80 figure is unrealistic. You would probably struggle to get bed and breakfast in some rural hotspots,” he said.

“Officers booked me to stay at the hotel where the conference was to cut travelling costs. “The accomodation was booked under the guidance of the LGA,” Cllr Stevens said.

Cllr Griffiths meanwhile said of his own booking: “I am sure it was the most cost effective booking that was possible.

“I travelled up with the leader of Forest Heath and our joint chief executive so we made considerable savings on our travel costs.

“As far as I remember this is the only conference that I recall going to that we had to pay for and I paid all my own personal expenses.”