Jet-setting council's £10,000 a month bill for flights in UK

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MORE than £10,000 a month is being spent by city councillors and officials on flights within the UK, it emerged today.

An analysis of air travel by the Evening News has discovered that the bill for domestic flights increased by five per cent to 122,000 last year. A further 71,000 was spent on international jet-setting, with the total bill for all flights hitting 390,000 for the last two years.

The News investigation has found that in an average month, city council staff fly the equivalent of twice around the world.

Recent destinations have included Johannesburg, Sydney, Beijing, Venice and Malawi.

While the council points out that the cost of some international journeys would have been recouped – such as pupil exchange schemes and school trips – there are concerns about the growth in the number of domestic flights.

Green councillor Steve Burgess said: "I'm appalled by these figures being spent every year on a form of travel that pumps climate-changing pollution directly into the upper atmosphere. For a Lib Dem-run administration that claims to be green, they should be ashamed of these figures.

"At a time when we should be cutting climate-changing pollution, councillors and staff are still flying to destinations within the UK when they could be taking the train. We need to be asking whether all these trips are necessary."

In one month analysed, council representatives flew more than 53,000 miles – the equivalent of twice around the world. Destinations included Kenya, the US and Germany, as well as domestic locations.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: "These figures are not acceptable. We can cut back on these types of costs and, in the current climate, we have to."

The council said 113,000 of the total 2008-9 bill was down to school trips, where parents paid the council to cover the costs.

It also pointed out that some other flights may have been sponsored.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "The Lord Provost as civic head is expected to represent the city internationally and councillors and council officials are required to carry out some of their business throughout the UK and the rest of the world.

"The cost of travel and the impact of the council's carbon footprint is kept under review and research is currently being carried out on best practice regarding business flights.

"When assessing transport options the council has a duty to balance environmental consideration with its obligation to keep costs low for Edinburgh's taxpayers."