Wandsworth council took more than 100 flights in six years – despite declaring climate emergency

By Sian Bayley, Local Government Reporter

Town hall staff have taken more than 100 flights to destinations as close as Cornwall and as far away as Jamaica in the past six years, despite recently declaring a climate emergency.

A freedom of information request revealed Wandsworth councillors and officers have taken 101 flights since 2014.

The majority of these were part of the lifelong learning programme, funded by EU grants, which amounted to 64 flights in the period.

These trips were to the likes of Venice, Barcelona and Turkey.

A further 25 trips were part of the council’s looked-after children programme, where social workers must check the home conditions of family members who are offering to adopt or foster a child in care.

It saw officers travel as far as New York, Jamaica and South Africa for adoption reviews and to visit looked-after children.

However, there were also 12 flights to the MIPIM conference in Cannes, which is described as the world’s largest property event.

Records show this event is usually attended by officers, but councillors have also attended on three occasions. These trips were paid for by developers.

It comes as the council adopted a £5m strategy to combat the climate emergency, including the appointment of five new staff.

However the latest strategy does not include any mention of reducing flight usage.

There was a slight increase in the use of air travel in the past year, with 29 flights taken.

Campaigners such as Greta Thunberg have recently highlighted the environmental impact of air travel by choosing to travel by alternative methods.

Last year she sailed to a UN climate conference in New York by yacht to reduce her emissions.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) aviation, contributes about two per cent of the world’s global carbon emissions.

A spokeswoman for Wandsworth council said there were a number of reasons why flights needed to be booked or arranged by the council, but stressed they were not necessarily paid for by the council and local taxpayers.

They said: “In most of the cases highlighted here they involved arranging flights for adult learners and some young people in care pursuing apprenticeships that were funded by EU initiatives.

“This is because the non-negotiable condition of receiving significant sums of EU cash to support lifelong learning was for those participating to attend various events and conferences to showcase these initiatives. In these cases the flights were paid for with EU funds.

“In other cases travel to places like Jamaica or New York involved social workers involved in fostering and adoption enquiries to check home conditions and circumstances of family members who were offering to adopt a child in care who was a family member, i.e nieces, nephews, grandsons or granddaughters.

“We are required by law to check that the accommodation and home settings being offered are both safe and suitable for the children.”

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