GSD: Government ‘Admits Failure’ to Control Travel Costs
The GSD says that the Government’s response to concerns regarding the class of travel of Ministers and MPs “admits that it failed to address” the matter of CPA travel costs under the Parliamentary budget for which the Chief Minister is responsible. The GSD also describes the response as “full of outright lies and half-truths.”
A statement continued: “Mr Clinton did not choose to travel Club Class. He was merely handed a ticket by Parliamentary staff. He has expressed his desire to change those booking and instead to fly economy. Mr Clinton is not responsible for those booking arrangements. As made clear yesterday the GSD believes that public coffers should only underwrite short-haul economy flights given the state of public finances. Steps should be taken to ensure that for all delegates.
“That practice should be extended to short-haul flights flown by Ministers – again for the same reasons. This is where the big expenses are. The Chief Minister asserts that only he flies Club Class and that that practice has ended for Ministers. This is doubted and bears further examination. The last couple of pre-COVID travel years were 2018 and 2019. A cursory look at those shows that Dr Garcia incurred travel expenses of £20,641 in 2019 and £37,859 in 2018. The vast majority of each of his flights to London cost in excess of £1,000 – often significantly more. The same goes for Minister Costa and some other Ministers during the same period. That similar point arises in earlier years where the travel costs are available online for Ministers. At best the practice is mixed and inconsistent between different Ministers. Everyone will understand the point that if a flight to London is costing the public purse more than £1,000 it is unlikely to be an economy class ticket. In any event the issue is that the state of the public finances now dictates that economies be found.”
Roy Clinton the GSD Shadow Minster for Public Finance stated the following:
“When a Government runs out of excuses it resorts to outright lies. It is simply not true that I chose to travel in Club class to the CPA conference, nor did I book the tickets myself. I have never flown Club class at the public expense and have no desire of doing so now. I did express my concerns to the Clerk of Parliament, who gave me the tickets, about the class of travel and the costs which were more than double the cost of Economy. As a consequence I also wrote to the Chief Minister asking him to change the class of travel given they were booked via a travel agent.
“Today we have been advised that these tickets were booked as non-refundable Business class tickets and thus both Elliott Phillips and I have insisted on personally paying the price difference between Economy and Club directly to the Government’s travel agent. I trust the Government Minister similarly booked will do the same. Going forward, short-haul flights should be booked on an economy basis for all Parliamentarians and accompanying Staff. Equally that practice should be consistently adopted by all Ministers with immediate effect.
“I understand that this is an embarrassment to the Chief Minister as Minster for Finance but he must accept responsibility for failing to ensure all economic savings have been identified in this time of crisis in our public finances.”