Councils in Merseyside have spent over £150,000 on flying staff to Europe and further afield, new figures have revealed.
Information published by the TaxPayers’ Alliance shows the eye-watering amounts spent on flights, with Liverpool City Council having spent by far the most and almost two thirds of the total – over £100,000.
The city council was also listed in the release’s “expensive and peculiar” flights list, paying for journeys to locations such as Kabul in Afghanistan, Somaliland, Basra in Iraq, and Liberia.
And Liverpool, which spent around five times as much as the next Merseyside council (Wirral) on flights, also paid for some of its staff to fly premium economy and others to travel in business class.
Bottom of the spending list during the period covered by the data was St Helens, which spent just under £9,000.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Serious questions need to be asked about why Liverpool and Merseyside councils have spent so freely on international travel. Liverpool in particular, who took almost 100 international flights a year, some in business class, should ring alarm bells.
“Whilst there are some legitimate uses for international travel, such as the child protection statutory duties which many Merseyside councils have, use of flights for councils business should be cut down dramatically.”
Here’s a breakdown on how much each council in Merseyside has spent on flights since 2015, from most to least spent:
£100,643.91 including 253 flights to Europe and 37 to the rest of the world. Two of those were in premium economy, while nine were business.
£21,157.04 including nine to Europe.
£19,100.68 including seven and a half (a one-way journey) to Europe and two and a half to the rest of the world.
£12,612.91 including 27 and a half flights to Europe, and two to the rest of the world.
£8,954 including 13 to Europe.
Responding to the comments, a Liverpool City Council spokesman said: “Liverpool is a global city with links around the world and we are regularly invited by partners, Government and other cities to take part in civic, trade and fact-finding missions to develop links, attract investment and create jobs. All of these things are absolutely critical to the current and future success of Liverpool.”
He said the city is currently undergoing a “regeneration boom”, with a record £14bn of development schemes being delivered or in the pipeline.
He added: “We make no apologies for going out and promoting the city around the world. The overwhelming majority of flights are in economy and where possible we always seek the cheapest route.”
A St Helens Council spokeswoman said: “St Helens Council has spent the least amount on flights out of all the Merseyside councils, significantly less than the national average.
“We have made more flights than some other councils, but at a reduced cost, meaning we have been more effective at taking lower cost flights. None of the flights made were at First or Business Class, and we always look to secure the cheapest option.”
A spokesman for Wirral council said: “Flights have only been taken when necessary and they were the best option available.”
Knowsley and Sefton councils were also contacted for comment.
The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, revealed that at least £6.7m was spent by English, Welsh and Scottish local authorities on flights, with £29,152 the average.
Tom Houghton , Local Democracy Reporting Service