Napier flights probe could take a year

INVESTIGATIONS into an alleged Notts County Council expenses scandal could take up to a year to resolve, it has been revealed.

INVESTIGATIONS into an alleged Notts County Council expenses scandal could take up to a year to resolve, it has been revealed.

The inquiry into thousands of pounds of public money spent on travel by four county councillors – including Retford's former mayor Jim Napier and county council leader Mick Warner – looks set to drag on for several months.

They are being probed by a council watchdog following expensive flights to the US two years ago.

The pair, along with another councillor, flew club class to a conference on child migration in New Orleans, with the council footing the whopping 17,000 bill.

Coun Warner and Mansfield's Coun Joyce Bosjnak are also being investigated after enrolling on expensive university masters degree courses funded by the council at a cost of 55,000.

The Standards Board for England, who are looking into the claims, confirmed the investigations which started in February are still ongoing this week.

And it is understood investigations of this kind could take up to a year to complete.

"The investigation into the four councillors started on 17th February," said a spokesman for the Standards Board for England.

The spokesman refused to speculate on the length of time it would take to complete the case, but noted: "We aim to complete 90 per cent of cases within six months. Some cases do take longer and vary according to the level of complexity involved."

If they are found to have misused council resources, or bought the council into disrepute, councillors could be barred from holding public office for as much as five years.

Meanwhile, the county council's standards committee has met to review the authority's training, travel and conference policy following the allegations.

At a county hall meeting held on 7th June, members heard how other councils and public bodies budgeted for the training of their members and staff, sometimes striking deals with other bodies to provide cheap or free training.

The meeting heard how a policy of always booking first class flights to destinations outside Europe had been in force at the county council for over 20 years.

But they were also told how travel options had modernised since then with better value deals on flights and train tickets available.

Worksop member Coun Glynn Gilfoyle noted that car sharing, using the civic car or booking cheap flights with a budget airline had been used in the past.

"At the end of the day officers and members can justify when they need to travel first class, because there are occasions when they are working while they are travelling," he said.

Members are expected to make recommendations on possible changes to the policy over the coming months.