A COUNCILLOR has criticised a council leader for taking a trip to Belgium on a “fact-finding mission”.

Cllr Daniel Humphreys, Tory leader of Worthing Borough Council, went on a “fascinating” two-day trip to the Belgian town of Roeselare to find out how to revive his own town’s high street.

But Cllr Beccy Cooper, leader of Worthing’s Labour group, said he should have looked closer to home for solutions to the seaside town’s “stagnation”.

The Marine ward councillor said: “It is good to see Cllr Humphreys recognising the need to learn from others, following years of stagnation in our wonderful town.

“I would recommend that he spends more time speaking to large and small businesses and retailers in Worthing.

“If he did, he would learn what Labour Councillors learned when recently speaking to retailers, which is that high business rates have been prohibitive to their growth and survival.

“It’s good that this is recognised in Belgium, but he could have found it out by better engaging with his own town centre community.”

A Worthing council spokesman said the majority of the trip was funded by the District Councils Network, which organised the excursion.

But council leader Mr Humphreys claimed £250 on expenses.

Cllr Humphreys said the trip to Belgium provided him with “plenty of food for thought” about ideas for Worthing.

Roeselare has adopted a number of radical measures for its town centre, including free 30-minute parking, free WiFi, and fining landlords if shops are left vacant for more than a year.

Cllr Humphreys said: “Obviously all town centres across Europe are facing the same problems with the digital revolution changing the retail industry, but I think the Roeselare example shows that fortune favours the brave.

“We have already started on plans costing millions of pounds to protect the town centre, changing the mix with more housing and more leisure attractions on our seafront.

“It does no harm at all to find out how others have risen to the challenge.”

The Worthing council leader also chatted with town centre guru Bill Grimsey, whose 2013 report on the future of high streets influenced Roeselare’s radical new policies.

He said the Belgian town was a success because it was unique.