Jo Cottingham, deputy leader of Broadland District Council

‘People think it’s a jolly but we will not see the outside of the hotel’ - Broadland council team flies out to United Arab Emirates for awards event in five-star hotel

Thursday, November 22, 2012
3.47 PM

A three-person team representing Broadland flew out to the United Arab Emirates yesterday – with seven nights booked in a five-star hotel.

The EDP’s paper version exclusively revealed yesterday deputy leader Jo Cottingham has been joined by two officers to represent the council in Al Ain at the International Awards for Liveable Communities, known as the LivCom Awards.

The authority is competing in five categories at the event, said to focus on international best practice of environmental issues and climate change, including the socio-economic section for the Rackheath retro-fit project.

Mrs Cottingham is to cover her own costs, while the council has confirmed it will pay the costs of Barbara Hornbrook, Broadland’s conservation manager, and Adam Banham, senior planning officer.

Flights and hotel charges for the two officers total £2,538, and include seven nights at the five-star Al Ain Rotana hotel at an average of £123 per night.

All the presentations are taking place in this hotel and discounted rates have been offered to all those involved in the event.

Broadland’s team left the UK yesterday and fly back from Dubai on Tuesday, November 27.

Fellow Broadland employee Susan Flack will also be attending the awards in her capacity as a LivCom judge.

Her costs will be paid for by LivCom.

Nich Starling, Liberal Democrat opposition leader, said he was amazed anyone thought the trip was a good idea.

He said: “Taxpayers in Broadland just want a good service and value for money. They don’t want to know their council enters international competitions and sends staff abroad to network as if we are some sort of Olympic team. We are not.

“At a time redundancies are being made to save money, it’s ridiculous to not economise on foreign trips.”

The authority says it previously won a bursary of £10,000 in a LivCom competition and it is competing for two bursaries this year. It adds action will be taken afterwards to rectify the carbon footprint of the trip.

Mrs Cottingham estimates she has put between 90 and 100 hours of her time into the project.

The council says officers also spent their own, unpaid time, producing one presentation and up to eight hours in related meetings.

Mrs Cottingham said: “People think it’s a jolly but we will not see the outside of the hotel. Everything is in the hotel – all the presentations are –we have five to make.

“There’s no way you can get people to understand that for the time we are out there, apart from the travelling time, it’s full-on.

“There’s presentations going on from 8.30am to 6pm. When we are not presenting we have to watch other people’s presentations as we have to score them as well as the judges.”