Sunderland council chiefs justify spending on first-class flights by revealing how many jobs they created
Sunderland Council bosses have doubled down their defence for spending on overseas travel after figures showed almost 400 jobs were created in the city by foreign firms last year.
According to a report prepared for Sunderland City Council’s cabinet, 393 jobs and investment worth £54.7million flowed into Wearside from abroad in 2017/18.
The council was forced to defend itself last month after it was found to have spent £128,080.50 on air travel for staff, including £26,583 on six business class flights to Tokyo.
Speaking at today’s meeting, Coun Michael Mordey, deputy leader of the council, said: “In one year, that investment in flights has brought £54.7million investment into Sunderland.
“I think that when faced with the numbers, anyone with common sense will see that is a fantastic deal for the city.
“Because of austerity and the money that has been robbed from the city, this council has to go out and bring back money to the city.
“I will not apologise for sending an officer on a first-class flight when they are bringing that kind of investment back to the city.”
According to a cabinet report on the council’s international strategy, Japan was the biggest single source of investment last year, with seven projects worth 247 jobs and £47.9million.
The United States was the next biggest, with six projects worth 108 jobs and £1.9million.
The paper added the planned International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) and Vaux site have both been the subject of enquiries from overseas firms.
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The council’s opposition Liberal Democrats remain unconvinced, however.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Coun Stephen O’Brien said: “It is absolutely disgusting and obscene, though not surprising, that our Labour-run council has spent such large sums of money on travel.
“I question whether these flights are indeed necessary.
“It is certainly unacceptable that such an astronomical amount of money should be spent on business-class flights.
“Amazon, one of the wealthiest companies in the world, for instance, will only pay for economy flights for its staff.
“Why should Sunderland City Council be any different?”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service