THE chief executive of Essex County Council dined with Lord Hanningfield several times at meals paid for by corporate credit cards.

Expenses figures revealed there were 19 occasions when Lord Hanningfield and Joanna Killian were at the same meal event along with a number of other attendees in 2006-08, ten in 2008/09 and two in 2009/10.

Meals attended by both figures included fine dining at Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein restaurants in the south-west while at a conference. Ms Killian paid for a meal for herself, Lord Hanningfield and two others costing £134 on her corporate credit card. The bill did not include wine.

The figures also showed two overseas journeys were undertaken by both Lord Hanningfield and Ms Killian on Essex County Council business. In 2007 they went to Virginia, USA, and in 2009 to the USA and Canada to see IBM Enterprises in New York and Service Canada.

Ms Killian said: “As chief executive I would have attended events and meetings on council business. On many occasions it was appropriate in my role to attend business-related meals and events. That is part of my job.

“My own expenses have always been subject to approval processes and are there for people to see on the council's website.”

“Our own internal audit team exposed a level of excessive expenditure that has been well documented. The council is now a different organisation, with a different leader, and this could not happen again.

“Action is now in hand to recover monies that may be due to the council.”