Mar 30 2011 by Graham Miller, Airdrie & Coatbridge
Jim McCabe and Jim Logue
ACCUSATIONS of “junketeering” have been levelled at two prominent Labour members of North Lanarkshire Council.
The cash-strapped local authority’s leader Jim McCabe and Labour colleague and convener of learning and leisure, Councillor Jim Logue, are set to travel to the sunshine island of Malta next month – at taxpayers’ expense.
The three-day trip is to help secure funding for a youth initiative.
And the two councillors are jetting out to the Mediterranean island to meet various dignitaries, including the Maltese Sports Minister, to finalise a student exchange training programme.
NLC this week insisted the only cost incurred would be £320 – for the councillors’ return flights. Accomodation costs are being met by the Maltese authorities.
However, news of the pair’s foreign trip was not welcomed by SNP councillors.
Murdostoun SNP representative John Taggart hit out: “It’s just not on.
“In these times of austerity a junket like this sends out completely the wrong message.
“A lot of people won’t be able to afford a holiday abroad this year. To witness councillors heading off to the sun on a needless trip will be particularly galling for residents of North Lanarkshire.
“If both councillors really want to go and the total cost of the trip is only £320, then why don’t they pay it themselves?
“What about travelling costs to and from the airports? And their subsistence costs, will the Maltese cover these as well?
“I hope this is not an indication that the old adage of ‘become a councillor and dust down your passport’ has returned.”
A council spokesman said: “This investment in two budget airline tickets aims to secure tens of thousands of pounds of funding benefiting hundreds of young people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to work and study in another country. The meeting aims to conclude formal agreements for reciprocal student exchange between students in North Lanarkshire and Malta.
“It is important to note the council will only be paying for the air fares element of the visit at a total cost of £320.
“Over the last two years the council have already accessed funding of around £50,000 to support the highly successful training and cultural programme.”