Councillor queries Riviera trip

A POLITICAL row has erupted over the sending a council director to a business conference in the South of France.

Medway Council paid out £1,200 for Kathy Wadsworth, the assistant director of economic development, to attend the Property Market Fair in Cannes. The annual international conference in the French Riveria last month attracted about 16,000 experts eager to learn how to promote inward investment in their areas.

But Liberal Democrat Cllr Steven Sivyer has hit out at the cost of the trip. He said: "We are accountable for taxpayers' money so the people of Medway deserve to know what their supposed benefits are. Everything should be out in the open."

Ms Wadsworth was at the conference from March 11 to 14 to promote Medway as having the potential to become the Thames Gateway City of Culture. Conservative Cllr Jane Chitty, portfolio holder for economic development, said using allocated funds to pay for delegates to attend this and other similar conferences was nothing new.

Council officers went to the conference in 2000 at an agreed cost of £15,000 and Ms Wadsworth attended this year's event with representatives from Kent County Council and Locate in Kent. Cllr Chitty said: "The Lib Dems agreed to this expenditure two years ago and they haven't challenged it since. This year it cost £1,200 rather than the £15,000 which was accepted by Cllr Sivyer's colleagues back in 2000. You have to spend money to accumulate it."

Medway is one of 24 urban areas in the UK to be earmarked for urban renaissance by the Government. More questions are expected to be raised at the full council meeting tomorrow at the Municipal Buildings in Gillingham.

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