A senior councillor left colleagues bemused when he made the extraordinary claim that council tax money has been used to send men to visit prostitutes in Amsterdam.

Charles Joyce, the leader of the Labour group at West Norfolk Council, made the bizarre allegation in an official meeting during a discussion about council tax.

In a heated exchange, he urged the Conservative-controlled authority to expand the number of people eligible for a 100pc reduction in the levy.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour councillor Charles Joyce

When Tory councillor Samantha Sandell said this would take too much money out of Norfolk County Council’s budget - the authority which receives the largest share of council tax - Mr Joyce replied: “What the county council has done with your council tax is send men to Amsterdam, to the girls in the windows."

He added: “The reason they had to go to Amsterdam was to get a receipt because you can’t get a receipt in this country, not one they would accept.  

“So always be careful when you say the county council are short of money.”

The outburst left Conservatives bemused. After the meeting, Stuart Dark, leader of WNC said: "I have never heard of this. Charles raised the matter but I am not aware of this ever happening. If he has concerns, he should raise them with the county council."

Eastern Daily Press: Stuart DarkStuart Dark (Image: Norfolk Conservatives)

Mr Joyce later clarified he was referring to newspaper reports from 13 years ago which suggested that some local authorities, among them Norfolk County Council, were giving people 'personal budgets' - money given to people eligible for social services care – that was being used on sex workers abroad.

At the time the county council said it was not aware any funds had been used in this way.

Eastern Daily Press: King's Court, headquarters of the Conservative-run Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk

Mr Joyce said: “That is where some of the money went. It was from the personal budget, but you can’t do whatever you want with it anymore. 

“They turned round and said it had to be legal and they decided [visiting prostitutes] was not legal. 

“The reason it came up was simply that they feel they must defend the county council’s budget. 

“Sam said ‘we have to think of the county council’ but it's really down to the borough."

He added: “I don’t regret saying the county council has wasted money.” 




Personal budgets were introduced under the last Labour government to give those who relied on social services - including those with disabilities - greater authority over how their funding was spent.

The system became mired in controversy following allegations that in some parts of the UK the money was being used to pay for people to visit prostitutes.

Norfolk County Council was one of the local authorities to come under scrutiny.

It rejected press reports that taxpayers' money was going to prostitutes, but did accept it had approved a personal budget being spent on fees for a dating agency and on foreign holidays. 

A national newspaper quoted a then Norfolk County Council manager for learning disabilities, as saying requests for visits to prostitutes would be looked on “favourably” with staff encouraged to be “as free thinking as possible”. 

A consultant who wrote the council's policy on learning disability and sexuality was also quoted as saying the authority had a duty of care to ensure those with learning disabilities were not being exploited financially if they paid for prostitutes and that it might involve care workers phoning to check what rates sex workers were charging.

The claims were contested by the council at the time.