01:40PM, Friday 11 May 2018
The cost of a business-sponsored council trip to a lavish property show in the south of France remains unknown and is not on Slough Borough Council’s records.
The council says it has no record of how much the trip cost its sponsors, prompting transparency concerns.
MIPIM, a real estate event in Cannes, was attended in March by the council leader Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) along with Joe Carter, director of regeneration, and Simon Hall, economic growth and enterprise manager.
There was outrage last year when the council attended the four-day event using taxpayers’ money, so this year it made a sponsorship arrangement with publisher 3Fox International.
Slough Urban Renewal (SUR), of which the council owns 50 per cent, paid for advertising with 3Fox International, which sponsored the trip.
The council says its attendees were not aware of who paid for their trip before jetting off.
When asked how much the trip cost, Mr Hall said the council did not have it on record because it was all privately funded.
But Slough Conservative Group leader Cllr Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill) said the council ought to know.
He said: “We are a 50 per cent stakeholder – the major share holder – in SUR. We should be declaring it.
“I don’t believe that it’s not possible for them to not have a good idea of the costs.
“They know where they are and which flights they took and which cabs they took. They should be able to cost it.”
He asked why the trip was not declared as a gift or hospitality worth £25 or more, which council members are required to do.
He said the fact a company of which the council is a major shareholder, paid for advertising with a firm which then funded the council’s trip created transparency concerns.
“The council has tried to be too clever and by doing so is giving so many mixed messages,” he said. “They’ve actually made it look worse than it potentially is.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Their presence at MIPIM was neither a gift nor hospitality.
“The delegation were there as part of their official council business, to promote Slough and investment in the town.
“The delegation’s presence was funded by sponsorship organised by communications company 3Fox, with whom the council has a mutually beneficial partnership but no contractual relationship.
“The council benefits by having an independent organisation promoting the borough.
“3Fox benefit by being able to sell advertising space to investors, developers, housing associations and like-minded partners who see the benefit of being linked with the borough and its regeneration.”
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