A COUNCILLOR whose party supporters promised he would 'end trips abroad' by town hall members has come under fire after taking part in an all-expenses paid trip to Germany.

For Darwen leader Tony Melia's campaign leaflets made the vow when he was elected to Blackburn with Darwen Council last year.

Opponents have accused him of a U-turn after taking part in the three-day town twinning visit to Altena, near Dusseldorf, last weekend.

When challenged by the Lancashire Telegraph, Coun Melia said he planned to repay the £283 air fare.

But Labour leader Kate Hollern, who was also on the trip, said: "I don't think he's off the hook.

"If he was planning to pay for it, why didn't he pay before we went?

"The tickets were paid for a long time ago.

"If he wanted to make a stand he should have refused to go, and if he really wanted to go he should have made it clear he was paying for it."

Fellow Labour member Andy Kay said: "It's what you might call a foot in mouth job.

"If you make a commitment to do something and then don't do it there's something sadly wrong.

"We have to make sure when we promise something to the electorate that we deliver it."

On the campaign leaflet, under the heading We Will Vote For Tony', was written: "There will be no more trips abroad for councillors paid for by us, the council taxpayers.

"We would rather have the police station manned 24 hours a day."

A Blackburn with Darwen council spokesman confirmed the air fares and a £300 minibus to Manchester airport had been paid for using council funds.

Hospitality in Germany was paid for by the Altena authorities.

Coun Melia, the member for Sunnyhurst, admitted his trip didn't tally with the promise on the leaflet, but said the German visit was essential.

He said: "We had to send political representation from all the parties. We have to do town twinning.

"There have been other trips abroad, just to look at various things - this was something we had to do.

"Of course they will make political capital out of it, but I will pay for it no problem."

He later claimed it had been decided at a For Darwen party meeting that he would go to Germany and pay for it himself. He said it had been an "arduous and exhausting" but "valuable" trip.

Blackburn's partnership with Altena, population 22,000, was formally established in 1971.

The town is also twinned with Peronne in France.

An agreement signed in Blackburn set out the aims were to "renew the bonds of friendship and goodwill which join our towns" and declared "the joint intention to encourage and foster the cause of peace and international understanding through meetings of townspeople."

Visits are organised every two years, with 12 delegates from Blackburn and Darwen on this trip.

They included Council leader Colin Rigby, mayor Mohammed Khan and deputy mayoress Nasreen Akhtar, Lib Dem Roy Davies and Couns Hollern and Kay.

Coun Rigby said: "My understanding is Coun Melia is paying for it himself.

"It's a personal matter. These things are on a fairly irregular basis, and I find them useful."