Next week I am going to China as part of a trade delegation. This includes representatives from Basildon Council, Chelmsford Council, Essex County Council and a number of Basildon and Essex businesses. Now, I am perfectly aware that one reaction on hearing ot such a trip is to assume that this is some sort of 'junket' designed for the pleasure of those travelling as opposed to the service of the public. You do hear of some Councils' foreign travel where the rationale seems, well, weak. However, Basildon Council does not indulge in such things for entertainment. When we go anywhere it is for the benefit of the people of our District and our track record in securing investment in Basildon as a result of being represented at events abroad is pretty good. We fund a great deal of economic development through involvement in a European New Towns grouping for example, and our work at the European MIPIM event has brought in millions of direct funding, never mind attracting general investor interest in Basildon. This has added up to infrastructure, jobs and homes that vastly outweighs the cost of plane tickets and hotels. These are not holidays, just work done somewhere else, and that is how we treat any foreign trip.
I have never been to China before, but Essex County Council has developed relationships there for a number of years with the aim of connecting Chinese and Essex business for mutual benefit. This trip is a first for Basildon, and so while we know what we want to achieve we will have to see if it returns the value that we hope. It certainly appears to have few of the characteristics of a 'junket' though. Industrial cities in China are not really holiday locations, and the weather is pretty much the same as here. Its an 11-hour flight, and we seem to have a reasonably full itinerary. This seems to fit my definition of work rather more than what most people would describe as fun.