The foreign trips taken by Norfolk councillors

Councillors and officers from Norfolk County Council are among those who have travelled abroad on bu

Councillors and officers from Norfolk County Council are among those who have travelled abroad on business for the authority. - Credit: Archant

Globe-trotting councillors enjoyed visits to China, the United States, Norway, Dublin, the United Arab Emirates and the Turks and Caicos Islands last year.

A Freedom of Information request has shown the number of times councillors and council officers have travelled abroad on council business.

In the vast majority of cases, the trips were paid for, not by councils directly, but through other funding streams, while on some occasions councillors paid their way themselves.

Former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy was one jet-setting councillor. He headed to the Turks and Caicos Islands at the end of April and start of May last year, after the Foreign Office picked Norfolk County Council to mentor political staff from the islands. Hotels, flights and expenses for the seven-day trip came to just over £2,000, covered by the Foreign Office.

The county council did spend £1,577 to send Ann Steward, the county council's former cabinet member for economic development, to China.

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That trip was for members and officers from the east of England, to encourage Chinese businesses to invest in the region's offshore wind industry and was hailed by the council as a big success.

A county council spokeswoman said: 'Very occasionally it is necessary and appropriate for individuals to travel abroad on business for very good reasons.

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'For instance, levering European money and business relocation into the county, something that we have been very successful in doing.

'This is clearly something which can't be done without visiting European countries from time to time. To put this in context, EU funding has brought considerable benefits to the people of Norfolk. Frequently, trips by officers and members are wholly or partly funded by third parties.'

Statistics also showed how social workers at Norfolk County Council had to make nine visits to France last year to deal with a social services issue, along with a visit to Portugal.

The council spokeswoman said: 'Many of the trips undertaken by children's services staff are related to placements of children. Placement visits abroad by social workers are very unusual, but do occur.'

At Broadland District Council, then deputy leader Jo Cottingham and three officers spent seven nights in the United Arab Emirates, where the International Awards for Liveable Communities, were being held.

Mrs Cottingham covered her own costs, while the two officers' flights and hotel charges totalled almost £2,500 for taxpayers. A third officer's costs were covered because she was a judge. Two of Broadland's projects were awarded gold certificates and one also won a bronze award.

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