A COUNCIL has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ cash by sending four people to inspect bin collections in Madrid.
Gosport Borough Council is looking to enter into £175m worth of contracts to provide a range of services to residents for the next 15 years.
But the decision to send a team of delegates 740 miles to inspect Spanish firm Urbaser has drawn criticism after it emerged the company has a base on the Isle of Wight.
The council has forked out £7,350 to send 93 people on 23 site visits in the UK and Spain.
These will help the council decide which firms to hire.
Tory Cllr Chris Carter, two council officers and a resident flew to Madrid for a two-day visit on December 14.
Cllr Peter Chegwyn, leader of the Gosport Lib Dems, said: ‘I think Cllr Carter should pay the money back.
‘I think it’s a shocking waste of public money when he could have gone to the Isle of Wight and seen the firm. It’s not the way public money should be spent at the moment.’
The council says EU rules mean it cannot favour one contractor over another.
This means if they want to visit UK contractors, they must also visit the Spanish one.
The leader of the council, Councillor Mark Hook, said: ‘This is a big undertaking and is vitally important that we get it right, which means making sure we check everything out thoroughly to ensure we select the best possible contractors at the best price.
‘Achieving value for money but maintaining quality of service is key to ensuring we provide residents with the best possible services.
‘If visiting all the UK contractor sites we must also do the same for the Spanish contractor.
‘First it ensures we see all options before making our decision and secondly, and more importantly, it helps remove the risk of any legal challenge, a situation which could result in substantial additional costs to the council.’
At its base on the Isle of Wight, Urbaser provides street cleansing services for the local council.
Gosport is looking for a firm to provide street and toilet cleansing, household waste, garden waste, sharps and recycling collections.
Council spokeswoman Brenda Brooker said: ‘It is down to the company to take us to a site to see their services in operation in as near to population size, urban make up, etcetera, as Gosport.
‘The Isle of Wight contract has only been operating for a little while so we could not get any customer feedback on the services there.’