June 19 2013 Latest news:
By PAUL GEATER,
local government correspondent, local government correspondent
Saturday, April 2, 2011
SUFFOLK: Council chief executive Andrea Hill stayed at top flight hotels at council taxpayers expense, a freedom of information request given to the Evening Star revealed today.
Mrs Hill – who is paid £218,000 a year and lives in Cambridgeshire – stayed two nights at one of the top hotels in the Ipswich area, Milsom’s at Kesgrave Hall.
She also stayed at expensive hotels when she was out of the county at conferences across the country.
The council paid almost £1,800 in hotel bills for their chief executive during the current financial year.
But her council-funded stays at Kesgrave ended after the county’s Conservative cabinet said it did not look good for her to be staying there at the council taxpayers’ expense.
Mrs Hill decided not to move to Suffolk when she took up her job in 2008.
The total cost of Mrs Hill’s hotel bills to council taxpayers during the year was £1,784.72.
That included three nights at the Haven Hotel in Poole at a cost of £615 during the Local Government Association conference in October.
The same month the council spent £341.41 on four nights at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff during the Society Of Local Government Chief Executives conference.
The county also spent £320 on a two-night seminar with the Association of County Chief Executives in Breadsall Priory near the Peak District – that did include the seminar costs.
A one-night stay at the Thistle Trafalgar after a London 2012 dinner in the capital cost £143.31 and a stay at the Belfry Hotel in Cambridge between a two-day public sector leaders conference cost £75.
The stays at Kesgrave Hall, costing £85 a night, were in May and June last year.
On the first occasion Mrs Hill stayed there she had a late evening meeting followed by a 7.30am breakfast meeting.
On the second occasion she was due at a business breakfast meeting at Ipswich Town FC, which is next to the county council’s Endeavour House offices.
Geoff Dobson, Suffolk County Council’s head of finance, who reports to Mrs Hill, said: “The role of Chief Executive at Suffolk County Council often requires Andrea Hill to attend meetings and conferences in an official capacity outside of Suffolk.
“As a senior officer, she often works late into the evening and therefore requires hotels with sufficient business facilities.
“For a Chief Executive of a large organisation like a county council, these figures do not represent an excessive amount of overnight stays on official business.”
County council deputy leader Jane Storey said Mrs Hill had stopped staying at Kesgrave Hall at the authority’s expense after members of the cabinet became concerned.
She said: “Certain members of the cabinet had been made aware of some of the expenses and we were not happy so we talked to Jeremy (Pembroke) and he talked to Andrea.
“She was not going over the top so far as I am aware but we were very aware of the sensitivity of the situation and said this is not a good image.”
Mrs Storey said that the climate had since changed over the last year.
She said: “To be fair to Andrea I think she has changed some of the things that she does and puts in for. I feel she has changed some of her expenditure.”
The council picked up the bill for her to stay at the Brudenell after a dinner organised by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality in the town.
Mrs Storey said the decision to stay at the Brudenell was different because it had given Mrs Hill the opportunity to meet other people from Suffolk well into the evening.
She said she would have expected that stay to have been agreed with Mr Pembroke.
Mrs Storey said that when the council recruited Mrs Hill they knew she live outside the county and that there would be times when she may be at a late-night dinner and at a breakfast meeting.
Conservative MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk Dr Dan Poulter said some of the expenditure seemed very high.
He said: “As an MP when we claim for hotel costs in central London there is a cap of £130 a night, and that is central London prices so to pay £615 for three nights in Poole sounds very expensive.
“So far as claiming hotel bills in Suffolk is concerned, I do not feel that is necessary – you should be able to make your own way to meetings.
“I am glad to hear that the cabinet acted on this.”
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard was concerned at the use of council funds to pay for hotel accommodation in the county.
She said: “The former chief executive Mike More also lived in Cambridgeshire, but he bought a small home in Ipswich at his own expense where he stayed if he had an early or late meeting.”
Labour group leader Sandy Martin said it would be acceptable for Mrs Hill to stay in a hotel in Suffolk at the council’s expense – but only if there were meetings continuing at the hotel well into the night or early next day.
He said: “Generally I would say it is either up to the person, whoever it is, to go home or to stay at their own expense.
“There was one occasion when I stayed at a hotel in Sudbury because people staying at the hotel were in meetings well into the night and from early the next morning and I think it was acceptable for that kind of thing to be paid for.
“But if you are just staying in a hotel as a matter of personal convenience and there are not meetings going on then that should be paid for privately and not by the authority.”
n What do you think about public money being spent on putting Andrea Hill up in luxury hotels? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstar firstname.lastname@example.org
May 6, 2010: Milsom’s, Kesgrave Hall, Ipswich (Late evening meeting followed by breakfast meeting the next day)
May 24, 2010: Thistle, Trafalgar Square, London, (London 2012 networkingand dinner) £143.31
April 4, 2010: Belfry, Cambridge (Public sector leaders conference) £75
June 18, 2010: Milsom’s, Kesgrave Hall, Ipswich, (Breakfast meeting at Ipswich Town FC) £85
July 8, 2010: Haven Hotel, Poole (Local Government Association Conference) £615 (three nights)
November 16, 2010: Marriott, Breadsall Priory, Derby (Association of County Chief Executives spring seminar) £320 (two nights, including cost of seminar)
October 25, 2010: St David’s Hotel, Cardiff (Society Of Local Government Chief Executives conference) £341.41 (four nights)
February 22, 2011: Brudenell Hotel, Aldeburgh (Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality dinner) £120