Welwyn Hatfield Council pays mountaineer �8,000 for talk

WHAT do Welwyn Hatfield Council and the Peruvian Andes have in common? Answer: They ve both played host to mountaineer Joe Simpson, whose escape down a South American mountain range has become legendary, and is the subject of his book and BAFTA-winning f

WHAT do Welwyn Hatfield Council and the Peruvian Andes have in common?

Answer: They've both played host to mountaineer Joe Simpson, whose escape down a South American mountain range has become legendary, and is the subject of his book and BAFTA-winning film Touching The Void.

But while Mr Simpson spent three-and-a-half days struggling down Siula Grande alone and with a broken leg in 1985, he had a much easier time at WGC's Campus West in 2006 when he was paid �8,000 to appear as a motivational speaker at Welwyn Hatfield Council's annual employee conference.

Although the WHT reported on the fee at the time, opposition councillors in Welwyn Hatfield poured fresh scorn on the expenditure this week, after a story published by the Daily Mirror once more revealed Mr Simpson's costs.


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Lib Dem councillor Malcolm Cowan said: "We have to ask what possible benefit a mountaineer's experience brings to Welwyn Hatfield.

"There are no mountains here - even Digswell Hill is just a gradual incline; no oxygen or ice-picks are needed anywhere in the borough."

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And Labour leader Margaret Birleson said: "�8,000 is an incredible amount of money to pay someone to speak.

"I can think of a lot of ways that money could have been better spent."

But chief executive Michel Saminaden defended the conference, which was attended by 500 council employees.

"An important reason for holding this training event was to inspire employees," he said.

"Mr Simpson has given speeches to many companies and organisations and has received glowing testimonials about his ability to motivate and inspire.

"It was an opportunity to thank employees for the important work they do on behalf of the council.

"All employees who attended found it interesting and worthwhile, and at �24 per employee I certainly feel that it represented excellent value for money.

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