Huge hotel bill for bird flu officers

A MASSIVE £121,000 of taxpayers' money was spent in less than a month on accommodation for officials dealing with the second bird flu outbreak in Suffolk.

TAXPAYERS have forked out £121,000 in less than a month on accommodation for officials dealing with the second bird flu outbreak in Suffolk.

There were 160 people put up in accommodation for a combined total of 1,295 nights by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) between November 12 and December 2.

This works out at an average of £94 per night or £758 for each individual.

The figures emerged after MP for Bury and Stowmarket, David Ruffley, questioned Jonathan Shaw MP, parliamentary under-secretary at the Home Office.

Mr Ruffley said: “I am quite simply staggered by the size of the hotel bill DEFRA seem to have racked up while staying in Suffolk.

“On average they have spent £94 per night putting up their officials. This is incredibly frivolous when one considers that bed & breakfasts in the area charge in the region of £30 to £35 per night.

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“This wasteful attitude will make farmers in the region sick - they are struggling to make ends meet, following bluetongue and avian influenza outbreaks, while the government is sending their officials to some of the finest hotels our area offers.

“By my calculations, if these officials had been found bed & breakfast accommodation the bill would have been in the region of £40,000. Not only would this have saved nearly £80,000 but it would have supported the very communities that have been shattered by these outbreaks.

“The government should be ashamed of this colossal waste of tax payers' money and Suffolk's farmers, who are receiving very little in the way of support or compensation, have every right to be livid.”

In answering Mr Ruffley's question, Mr Shaw said: “In an emergency, a large number of staff need to be found hotel rooms near to the local disease control centre at very short notice.

“DEFRA employs the services of an external provider to ensure that the most appropriate accommodation is secured and provides the best value for money.”

N Do you think too much money was spent on accommodation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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