BOSSES at cash-strapped Sunderland council are splashing out on business class flights.
A report, which has been signed off by the authority, claims the extra comfort is needed so staff can perform their duties effectively.
The rule applies to any flight longer than eight hours as the council said it has a duty of care to employees and elected members.
Despite the report stating economy tickets should be purchased for flights of less than five hours, if the Mayor is part of the trip then travellers are upgraded to business class.
Sunderland City Council has also been revealed as the biggest-spending local authority on air travel in the North East, forking out £210,000 on flights. >>Click here to read more
Earlier this year, the council was criticised after spending £4,500 to fly Coun Harry Trueman, then deputy leader, to South Africa to attend a two-day economic conference.
If he had flown in economy class the flights would only have cost about £750.
Wearsiders today said the money could be better spent.
Andrew Woods, of Thorney Close, said: “The council should not be allowed to get away with that.”
The 40-year-old added: “We are in a recession and the money they are using for business class flights could go elsewhere on services that would be of long-term use.”
Louise Hiles, 40, of Hylton Castle, said: “I think it’s a disgrace as those seats will cost a fortune, but it’s the council and they are never going to change.
“The money should be spent on public services like care homes and making more jobs for people.”
Tim Archer, 49, of Pennywell, added: “That’s not fair, what is wrong with a standard class flight?
“The amount of money they would save by just doing that could be put into schools and roads instead of wasting our money.”
Ex-council worker Fred Collum, 77, of Eden Vale, said: “I worked for the council for 34 years and I disagree with the way they spend.
“The council don’t do their job and never have done. They would have meetings but nothing would come from it.
“They don’t seem to be interested in Sunderland and don’t have aspirations for the area.”
Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “More than 17,000 people here are employed by foreign companies and we have seen millions of pounds invested here from overseas.
“As an example, in the financial year 2011/12, the creation of more than 2,000 new jobs was announced by overseas-owned companies in the city, bringing £700million of capital investment into Sunderland.
“The city council continues to attract foreign investment and promote our goods and services abroad.
“As part of this work, and in the light of the economic climate, the council has been reviewing its policy and guidelines on foreign travel and already implemented a number of the changes.
“Expenditure on foreign travel has been reduced by approximately 40 per cent over the last three financial years.”