Slough Borough Council is forking out more than £7,000 worth of taxpayers’ money – prior to expenses – to send two people on a four-day excursion to the south of France, The Observer has learned.
Leader of the council Sohail Munawar and one council officer have taken the trip to Cannes in the French Riviera to attend MIPIM – a four-day real estate exhibition.
Tickets to the exhibition, which opened on Tuesday and closes today (Friday) at the Palais des Festivals – the same venue as the prestigious Cannes film festival – cost about £1,600 per person.
Councillor Munawar (Lab, Elliman) has labelled the trip as both a “unique opportunity” and “cost-effective”.
But opposition council members have expressed their anger, suggesting that the trip is unnecessary and expensive.
Councillor Amarpreet Dhaliwal (Con, Langley St Mary’s) said: “We have got a council leader moaning about the national budget hurting families using taxpayers’ money to go and sun himself in Cannes on a little jolly.
“Slough has more pressing issues much closer to home and we don’t need to spend that much to go to one of the most prestigious housing events in Europe.”
“I can’t see the reason for it. It’s appalling.”
The MIPIM website describes the event as an opportunity for authorities to “promote their city to a global audience, build an urban development strategy and connect with future partners”.
Mr Munawar said: “MIPIM is one of the largest property events in the world attracting over 1,000 investors from around the globe.
“It therefore presents a unique opportunity to showcase Slough’s potential to a large number of leading investors in one place very quickly and cost-effectively.
“We can’t take our eye of the ball for a second and must continue to attract investment to help us deliver the priorities of local people.
“That’s the very reason dozens of UK councils attend MIPIM and why we need to be there telling people why they should choose Slough over anywhere else.”
Flights to nearby Nice airport can be purchased for as little as £123 return from London, while accommodation for two for the duration of the event is available in Cannes for under £1,000.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said that it was not sending a delegate to the exhibit this year, but that in previous years it had been involved.
South Buckinghamshire District Council also said it was not sending anyone to the event this year.