BASILDON council’s chief executive and another senior officer have been criticised for accepting an invitation to go on a “jolly” to India.
Chief executive Bala Mahendran, and head of leisure services Gary Edwards travelled to the south-western coastal state of Kerala giving waste management advice to the state government.
The £7,500 trip was funded by the European Business and Technology Centre, a European Union organisation which helps green business forging links with India.
However, the lobby group, the the TaxPayers’ Alliance has criticised the highly-paid pair for the trip, saying they should have been focusing on their council jobs back home.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: “Basildon’s residents will rightly be wondering why on earth their council chief executive is halfway around the world handing out advice, rather than running the council at home.
“This trip will, ultimately, be paid for by taxpayers one way or another and it’s difficult to see a benefit to Basildon residents.
“With budgets tight and savings to be made, local councillors need to be hard-nosed about what is a jolly and what is of actual use to local taxpayers.”
The trip is the latest in a series made by Mr Mahendran – and his second to India in recent years.
In 2012, he and Tory council leader Tony Ball travelled to Delhi and Raipur on a £2,000 excursion to promote Basildon to Indian businesses.
Most of the cost was covered by a body called Project East, which organised the trip.
The chief executive also twice visited China with Mr Ball and Essex County Council representatives on trade missions.
Speaking to the Echo in 2012, Mr Mahendran said those trips had paid off because the Chinese Phoenix Publishing and Media Group had decided to base its UK headquarters on Basildon’s Southfields industrial estate. In 2012, he flew to Portugal with Mr Ball on a business trip, but stressed at the time the pair had kept the cost down to £600 by using budget airlines and hotels.
A council spokesman told the Echo Mr Mahendren was unavailable for comment.
BASILDON Council’s Tory leader Tony Ball has defended his chief executive’s trip – but opposition councillors have been highly critical.
Mr Ball said he hoped it would create links with potential partner authorities and organisations in India.
He added: “The trip could create future business opportunities for Basildon Council, which, through its expertise and excellent track record in waste management, could provide consultative services.
“This approach is part of the council’s plan to further commercialise its services and expertise to create extra revenue for the council.”
However, opposition councillors weren’t so sure.
Gavin Callaghan, Labour councillor for Pitsea North West, said: “I was not overly critical of his last trip to India because it was to promote business in Basildon.
“However, in this particular instance, it sounds as if it is not something any councillor from any party should condone.
“He is paid a phenomenal amount of money for a part-time chief executive – more than MPs get for a full-time job.
“My residents will find it very very difficult to understand why we are paying him an enormous amount to do a part-time job and then go to the other side of the world on a trip which will not benefit Basildon.”