A councillor has been labelled hypocritical by unions after criticising strike action in the same week that he charged more than £800 to the taxpayer to attend a conference.
Brighton and Hove City Council Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald questioned whether striking council workers’ demands for a pay rise were affordable, while he was staying at a £200-a-night hotel.
A mass, nationwide multi-union strike saw thousands of council staff take to the city streets in a dispute over pay on the final day of the annual Local Government Association (LGA) conference.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said it was hypocritical for the councillor to question affordability of pay rises at the same time as racking up a hefty hotel bill for a three-night stay at a luxury hotel.
The veteran councillor defended the expense, saying the conference was of vital importance in representing the interests of the city.
Councillor Theobald was one of five council representatives at the LGA conference in Bournemouth at the beginning of July, along with council leader Jason Kitcat, community safety lead Liz Wakefield, independent councillor Christina Summers and chief executive Penny Thompson.
All five representatives charged the costs of the near-£500 registration fees back to the council as well as hotel costs. The cost of Coun Theobald’s total room costs were £621 of which, under council rules, he can claim back £114 a night in expenses and repay the rest out of his own pocket.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said: “I think it’s absolutely outrageous that he felt he was able to criticise a legitimate strike over a legitimate claim by low-paid workers while living it up on our members and taxpayers’ council tax contributions.
“As he was putting out the statement, he was probably having croissants in some luxury hotel in Bournemouth.”
Coun Theobald said the LGA Conference was the only local government conference he attended every year and represented “an extremely useful opportunity”.
He said: “It is a little rich for the trade unions to be criticising me over the use of taxpayers’ money when they receive around £250,000 from the council taxpayer to fund seven full-time officials who seem to spend most of their time campaigning against the Government and blocking much-needed reforms to expensive council-run services.
“I didn’t agree with the trade union bosses calling this strike, based on just 8% support in the case of Unison, and therefore I was more than happy to carry on my business as a councillor and group leader as normal.”