Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayor Ran Up Massive Bills for Junkets

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayor Ran Up Massive Bills for Junkets

Article excerpt

Byline: By Robert Brooks

A north mayor has been accused of squandering council taxpayers' money on junkets and running up unnecessary bills as part of his civic duties over the last year.

Critics are calling for an investigation into how Berwick Borough councillor Tony Hughes ( who is also political leader of the authority ( has spent just over pounds 11,500 on social functions, trips and expenses in just seven months ( almost twice the pounds 6,300 incurred by previous incumbent Jim Smith in during his 12 months in office.

They are asking why a mayoral party of four needed to spend two nights at a Mayfair hotel to attend the Queen's garden party at Buckingham Palace, at a total cost of just over pounds 1,335.

They are also annoyed that the mayor organised a 10-day trip for himself and four other office bearers to Berwick's namesake town in Pennsylvania, USA, without being invited first. They claim the pounds 5,500 goodwill trip was a waste of time and money because the Americans were already due to visit the Northumberland borough just four days

* ater. Last night Coun Hughes dismissed the claims as "scurrilous" and said all expenditure had been ratified by officers and approved by the elected members.

But Independent councillor Brian Douglas said he believed the mayor had breached the privilege of public office since he took over the role in May.

"The US visit was a junket trip and Coun Hughes effectively invited himself," Coun Douglas said.

"I have obtained documents which show that Coun Hughes made contact on May 27 with his US counterpart to request a civic visit later that year, not the other way round.

"The trip to the Garden Party, meanwhile, lasted two days, whereas previous mayoral visits have normally returned the same day.

"At the end of the day we are always claiming to be cash strapped, so we cannot endorse irrelevant expenditure. …

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