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Cost of gifts for Wirral Council delegation's Chinese hosts sparks new row
AN already controversial trip to the Far East by a group of senior officers from Wirral Council has become embroiled in further strife over the cost of transporting gifts for the delegation’s hosts.
Council leader Phil Davies, chief executive Graham Burgess, regeneration director Kevin Adderley and communications and tourism boss Emma Degg made the long-haul trip at the end of August.
The aim was to strengthen the relationship between the borough and China, which has expressed keen interest in the multi-billion pound Wirral Waters regeneration project.
The officers had planned to present their hosts with 11 framed photographs of the peninsula.
The pictures cost around £750 to produce and transportation added £370 to the total.
Unfortunately, delays in carriage meant the photos arrived too late and will have to be presented at a later date.
Conservative councillor Chris Blakeley had already criticised the visit, saying there was no need for so many town hall executives to be involved.
Today he fired a salvo at the additional costs: “This is absolutely outrageous.
“Not only are we spending money on a trip to China, we find we are spending it on gifts too.
“The problem, though, isn't really with the gifts, but with the £300 for transport.
“I cannot believe that at a time when the council is facing huge financial pressures, and when every pound is counted, that it could be prepared to do this.”
Kevin Adderley Wirral’s strategic director of regeneration and environment, said: “As is the case with any government, business or other organisation seeking to do business abroad, it is culturally important that small gifts are given to the host.
“This is accepted, and expected, practice throughout the world and is a small price to pay when compared to the level of investment and jobs we will benefit from as a result of these trips.
“The photos of Wirral were returned to us - at no cost to the taxpayer - due to a delay in transit.
“They arrived too late and will be presented at a later date.”
He said the Wirral Waters development, at derelict docklands in Birkenhead's East Float, and specifically the International Trade Centre, is vital to Wirral’s future economy.
“They stand to create over 30,000 jobs and literally hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment to the borough. Clearly, this should be and is a huge priority to this council,” he said.
“These trade missions are an essential part of this process, and involve meeting with hundreds of Chinese businesses and branches of government to encourage investment in Wirral.”
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