FoI delivers new scoop on old story

The Kent Messenger Group has used the Freedom of Information Act to expose how foreign trips by local councillors cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds last year.

KMG political editor Paul Francis used the act to revisit the issue a year after the group had disclosed councillors had been regularly travelling the world.

His latest scoop reveals how, in 2005, members of Kent County Council’s Conservative cabinet and other leading councillors had once again crossed the Atlantic for visits to destinations including New York, San Francisco and Washington as well as extensive travel throughout Europe, racking up a total of £50,000 for conferences, seminars, fact-finding missions and to encourage business investment.

They included a four-day trip to Virginia last November, costing more than £6,000, during which, according to the council, "Kent was invited to join Virginian Indians at a Pow Wow meeting in order to negotiate their participation in an international festival at Gravesend."

As part of its coverage, the group invited the council’s deputy leader, Alex King, to write a first-person piece in which he argued the travels were an important part of the council’s drive to deliver ground-breaking services for residents and discover new ideas.

Francis said: "This shows the value of FoI in being able to revisit stories as well as unearth new ones. Repeating requests ‘one year on’ is a tactic well worth using."

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