Tower Hamlets council has spent £855 on first class train tickets for two officials to attend a conference in Manchester, despite a pledge to make £90m of cuts over the next four years.
Children’s services director Isobel Cattermole and her deputy Ann Canning attended the Association of Directors for Children’s Services conference last July, using £427.50 Virgin Rail first class open returns – the most expensive tickets available.
The council initally defended the purchase and refused to disclose its policies on staff travel saying: “Open tickets are sometimes purchased to allow officers greater flexibility with travel times.”
However, earlier today the council issued the following statement:
“In instances where officers incur expenses in excess of the lowest available fare, they are duty bound to reimburse the council the outstanding balance. This is exactly what has happened in the instance of the two officers cited in the Sunday Express report.”
Local government officials and members of the TaxPayers’ Alliance have been quick to criticise the council for purchasing the tickets – which cost more than return flights to New York – for Cattermole and Canning, who both earn around £116,000 a year.
Tower Hamlets is Britain’s poorest borough. It has recently announced it will be selling off a £20m Henry Moore sculpture, as well as pushing ahead with a controversial decision to cut the budget for welfare advice centres.
By Oscar Quine