Aberdeen’s deputy provost has again been forced to defend his foreign travel – after it emerged he was going to the US for a conference that was not taking place.
The budget for John Reynolds came under scrutiny at a full council meeting yesterday when Liberal Democrats pointed out that the event – the stated purpose for the visit – only happens every two years.
Councillors were asked to approve two additional visits for Mr Reynolds, to Mozambique in Africa and Oklahoma City in the US, to cost around £5,000.
The trips came before committee after money set aside for overseas trade excursions was used up with eight months of the financial year to go.
The trip to an International Energy Conference in Oklahoma City trip was to be an “add-on” to an already agreed visit to Louisiana in October for another conference.
But in a series of questions from Lib Dem group leader Ian Yuill o Gordon McIntosh, director of enterprise, strategic planning and infrastructure, it was established that the Louisiana event only took place on a bi-annual basis and would not be going ahead this year.
Mr Yuill said: “We should remove this visit on the basis that the committee agreed that based on inaccurate information.”
However, a Lib Dem amendment to remove that visit from the travel plan was voted down by 23-18.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Reynolds said officials had “assumed” at the time of seeking approval that the Louisiana conference took place every year, and it was only a few months ago when it emerged that it was a bi-annual event.
He said: “We had discussions, and the plan was that because it had been approved, there was still business to be done in Louisiana, doors that can be opened for
Aberdeen businesses particularly, but also bringing Louisiana companies with their technology over to Aberdeen.
Mr McIntosh said the conference was only one day in a long itinerary of visits, including meetings with major oil and gas firms.
Mr Reynolds added: “It’s about getting the Aberdeen story over to American businesses.
“I think doors can be opened by politicians, and I think that’s my particular role.”
Callum McCaig, leader of the main opposition SNP group, said “whether intentional or not”, elected members had been given “confusing” information about the nature of the trip.
Council leader Jenny Laing defended the move, however. She said: “It is important that we send out a clear message that we are open for business.”