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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Dinner in America

Anyone could, quite legitimately attend a conference, or an exhibition in connection with running an organisation. Businesses do it all the time, Directors go off to presentations and seminars to discuss new ideas, best practice and for networking.

The same could be said for local government.

Do you think its worth though, the dear Leader of K&C the unbeknighted Cllr Merrick Cockell flying to America to attend a conference on the merits of having "one single phone number for a city" - we kid you not.

Well he did, and here is his expense summary that council tax payers coughed up for him, £3367 in total to prove it.

Now looking at the summary, you can see $2000 for the hotel, £2000 for the flight, and then about $260 for incidentals and you could be forgiven for thinking, well thats reasonable (if you set aside the actual reason for the trip for a moment).

But Hornet can reveal the "incidentals" of about $260 do not really paint a real picture, oh no. Its a lot murkier when you look carefully at the actual hotel bill, that Hornet has acquired.

And here is his actual hotel bill, the rather plush Sofitel in New York. The first item is the Limosine from the airport to the Hotel. Hornet goes to New York from time to time and usually uses a taxi to get downtown. It doesnt cost $130 a time like Cockells Limo, and Hornet cant bill it back to the council tax payer either. Of course it was limo that took him back to the airport as well, costing another $130.

Cllr Cockell has to eat and drink, and he chose to use room service, fair enough. But then why bill the room service to the council? In the heady world of business that Cllr Cockell used to know from the time he ran an import/export business from the basement of the local Tory Office, its usually off limits to bill-back room service as its prices are at a premium.

And he did it more than once, so thats a very expensive lager the council tax payers bought him.

There is also the little question of the $180 dinner at the Four Seasons...   ...that must have been a big dinner, with some alcohol for just one person, or was it more than one person? If so, whom? More importantly, what was the point of the rather expensive dinner in a luxury hotel?

Questions need to be asked, and answers should be forthcoming.

You will notice as well the council paid over £2000 for return flights with Virgin Atlantic. Hornet usually flies to New York for around £400, sat somewhere near the back on comfortable seats, usually with BA. So its clear Cllr Cockell didnt fly economy class but business class or maybe more.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Director of a private company, like Cllr Moylan is, (and Cllr Cockell was) jetting off on business and his company picking up the tab for the expenses and the flight upgrades, the room service, the limo, and the expensive dinner at the Four Seasons. Its the companies money, they earned it  they can spend it how they like.

RBKC isnt a private company. It doesnt have any money of its own, the residents of K&C fund it, and Cllr Cockell shouldnt be allowed to jet off in luxury, be put up in luxury and driven about in luxury at the residents expense. Especially to junkets that frankly have a very loose connection to running a local council, halfway across the globe.

News has just reached Hornet that this isnt the only trip funded by taxpayers to America for Cllr Cockell. Watch this space.


  1. Dear Mr Hornet,
    I, for one think am sick and tired of public servants, of whom Mr Cockell is one, not legitimising their expenses properly. It is clear to me that if he cannot remember whom he had dinner with in New York then he should not be able to claim this on expenses. Common sense really.


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