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Legoland fiasco

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A senior councillor stormed out of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions after branding his accommodation “like Butlins in the 1970s”.

Martin Kitts-Hayes claimed his chalet at the Legoland Holiday Village in Denmark was “a glorified” shed not suitable for an elected member.

And he demanded local authority staff find him somewhere else to stay – or book him a flight home.

The Progressive Independent Group councillor later tried to cover up the fact he had returned early from a conference trip which left council tax payers with a £3,000 bill.

Today, the Press and Journal can reveal details of the internal investigation into the “Legogate” debacle – contained in a secret 76-page report.

It has already been seen by other members of Aberdeenshire Council but will not be made public until next month.

Inverurie councillor Mr Kitts-Hayes had been due to speak at a North Sea jobs conference at Billund in southern Denmark.

He made the trip with the council’s infrastructure committee chairman David Aitchison and local authority European policy team manager Martin Brebner.

The trio had been at the Legoland Holiday Village for less than two hours when Councillor Kitts-Hayes demanded to go home.

They were booked to stay at the family-themed resort after local authority officers discovered the Legoland Hotel was fully booked.

Private e-mails contained in the inquiry report reveal Mr Kitts-Hayes blamed a “disgruntled staff member” for the trip becoming public knowledge and the council’s own travel team for booking inappropriate accommodation, which cost £740.

But the report, by the authority’s business services director Ritchie Johnson, says that Mr Kitts-Hayes was told about the accommodation arrangements six days before the June 14 trip.

Mr Johnson says the council co-leader “immediately” branded the Wild West cabins “unsuitable” and likened the three-star resort to being like Butlins in the 1970s.

He called Mr Brebner, his PA Lisa Pratt and his partner to either find somewhere else for him to stay – or book him a flight home.

Mr Brebner says in his account of the trip that he gave Ms Pratt just one hour to do this.

Mr Brebner also tried to find alternative accommodation for Mr Kitts-Hayes, but just over an hour after arriving he had made up his mind he wanted to go home.

Mr Johnson said: “The standard of accommodation fell well below the expectations of Councillor Kitts-Hayes.

“He described the accommodation as a glorified shed which might be suitable for a young family – but not a councillor, particularly one who is 6ft 2in and 17 stone, or a council officer.

“Councillor Kitts-Hayes was clear that he had no intention of staying at the Legoland Holiday Village.”

Mr Johnson added: “Councillor Aitchison was concerned that if one of the delegation stayed it may appear the accommodation was not that bad and that this would reflect badly on those returning home.”

All three were in a taxi to the airport by 3.30pm, and had left the country at 5.35pm – despite the North Sea Commission, which was hosting the conference, finding alternative accommodation at the Legoland hotel at 5.07pm.

The three flew economy class on Royal Dutch Airlines at a cost of £1,544 and their flights to Denmark cost £1,008.96.

Mr Kitts-Hayes called Ms Pratt at 12pm on June 15 to “advise her not to tell people that he and David Aitchison have returned home”.

In a later e-mail to Kerstin Brunnstrom, president of the North Sea Commission, he blamed a council employee for leaking details of his trip.

He wrote: “Unfortunately, a council employee reported the incident to the press and as a result generated some very negative and unfair publicity.

“Had a disgruntled staff member not gone to the press, nothing would have been said.”

The conference was attended by 350 delegates made up of project developers and policy makers representing authorities from across Europe in an effort to set “building blocks for the future”.

Last night, amid calls for him to step down, Mr Kitts-Hayes was unavailable to comment.

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