A TOURISM-boosting council visit to Japan – costing ‘less than £5,000’ – has been described as a ‘taxpayer-funded jolly’.
Rugby Borough Council leader Coun Michael Stokes and executive director Adam Norburn attended the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw in Kyoto last week as guests of World Rugby, the sport’s governing body.
During their week-long visit, they met with Japan’s Prime Minister, the Mayor of Kyoto and the President of Rugby World Cup 2019 to promote the birthplace of the game during the tournament, and spoke to potential sponsors for the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
But the trip was criticised by the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
John O’Connell said: “Residents will rightly be angry.
“Politicians must resist the temptation to go on taxpayer-funded jollies while pleading poverty and raising taxes.
“At a time when savings are having to be made, every penny must go towards providing essential services.
“The best way to promote local residents’ interest is to deliver the basic services they pay for and deserve.”
A council spokesman defended the trip, describing it as a unique opportunity to highlight Rugby’s historical connections with the game and promote the town as a tourist destination to Japanese markets in front of a global audience.
And Coun Stokes said it had been a privilege to represent and promote the borough in Japan.
He said: “The numerous meetings have enabled us to make connections which would not have been possible without this visit, and many of Japan’s Host Cities have made it clear they are looking to Rugby as an example of how to create a successful Fanzone and visitor experience in a World Cup year.
“The highlight of the trip was meeting with Prime Minister Abe who thanked me for attending and hoped that Rugby could forge stronger links with his country to further promote all we have to offer with regards to the sport of rugby.
“This trip is an ideal opportunity to explore how the Hall of Fame can promote tournament host cities, and also how we could promote Rugby as a visitor destination at host cities and in Fanzones in Japan during the tournament in 2019.”