HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has been slammed for jetting off to South Africa to speak at a conference while the council’s budget plans are still up in the air.
The elected mayor was due to speak today about climate change and his Operation Cleansweep initiative at the Urban & Housing Development conference in Cape Town.
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But the timing of the trip has sparked criticism from councillors after Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget plans were thrown into disarray last week.
The event has been organised by Marcus Evans, who also invited Mayor Drummond to speak at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, last March.
Mayor Drummond has taken a week’s annual leave and is in South Africa until the weekend.
The three-day conference started today and is being held at the luxurious Southern Sun Cape Sun hotel, in Cape Town, which has spectacular views of Table Mountain and Robben Island.
Other speakers include directors, chief executives and advisors of various organisations from Kenya, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa, Tanzania, China and the USA.
Speaking from South Africa, Mayor Drummond said: “I am speaking at two sessions at the Urban Housing and Development conference.
“It is the same organisation behind the conference in Vietnam last year and I was delighted to be asked to speak again.
“This is another fantastic opportunity to promote Hartlepool on the international stage.”
Mayor Drummond confirmed his four-day trip had been in his diary since last summer and it has been funded by the conference organiser.
He rejected claims from councillors who raised concerns about the timing of his trip after the 2012-13 budget plans were thrown into disarray last week at full council.
A series of amendments were put forward and backed by councillors at the last minute and Mayor Drummond now has a week to object.
He said: “I have been checking my emails for both the local authority and Cleveland Police Authority while I am over here.
“I am not sure what the councillors want me to do with the budget.
“They have made their views very clear and I have this week to decide whether to object.”
Operation Cleansweep brings together a range of agencies, including Hartlepool Borough Council, Cleveland Fire Brigade and Cleveland Police, under the banner of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership to spruce up different areas of town.
Work includes street cleaning, repairs to footpaths, graffiti removal, weeding and litter picks.
Organisers learned about the scheme in Vietnam last year and they also asked him to speak about how the Tees Valley is tackling climate change challenges.
He gave the same speech in Vietnam.
It touches on encouraging green businesses, carbon capture and storage, the use of electric cars, making energy through waste, nuclear power and wind farm construction in the region.
Mayor Drummond was approached to speak in Vietnam on the back of his World Mayor of the Year 2010 nomination.