Sunday 3 August 2008
Pants On Fire
On 29th July, I posted a story about Frequent Flyer Freer’s junket to America which included a club class ticket to San Francisco at a cost to the Barnet taxpayer of nearly £3,000. This story was subsequently featured in the Barnet Press issue dated 31st July 2008. Click here to view it.
In his interview with the Barnet Press, Cllr Freer justified the expense by saying "The flight to San Francisco was 13 hours and I took the decision to fly club class because you get a place to work and it allows you to arrive fresh and ready to go straight into the classroom."
The problem with this argument is that his flight ticket shows that he took the Saturday morning flight arriving early Saturday afternoon local time. The conference didn't start until the Monday (thank you BT for that information). So much for “straight into the classroom.” Cllr Freer clearly had enough time to recover from the flight and could have travelled standard class.
In any event, what council work did Cllr Freer need to do for 13 hours? By his own admission, the Chief Executive runs the council.
Another concern is Cllr Freer’s remark “I took the decision to fly club class…” It was not his decision to take. He was granted permission to visit America by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Policy & Performance and, as the council does not have a travel policy for such trips, he should have obtained permission from them. In the private sector, staff cannot fly club class just because they feel like it. Cllr Freer came to power declaring that he would be ruthless on cutting costs. But not his own, it seems.
Cllr Freer’s false statement above is not his first inaccuracy regarding this junket. He told the Barnet Press on 8th February 2007 that he did not anticipate the trip to Boston costing more than £1,000. But the travel agent's invoice showing the actual cost of £1,227.10 is dated 16th January 2007 and is personally addressed to him, so he must have seen it.
Is Cllr Freer really a fit and proper person to be Leader of the Council or the next MP for Finchley when he appears to be so economical with the actualité?