ALMOST £40,000 of taxpayers’ money is being spent on rented accommodation for surf reef workers from New Zealand – even though they are not currently in the country.

Bournemouth council has defended its decision to rent out four two-bedroom flats in Boscombe for eight ASR staff working on the reef, claiming it was the most cost-effective thing to do.

But the revelation comes at a time when councillors and officers are already under-fire for allowing the costs of the Boscombe Spa Village project to increase by a third to more than £11million.

The flats in Undercliff Road cost £800 a month and were taken out on a six-month lease last summer.

The council has confirmed it is renewing the tenancies for a further six months, even though ASR officially downed tools on the surf reef project last October. Workers then returned to New Zealand and are not officially due back on site until April. (CHK).

Chris Saunders, the council’s business development manager, said: “During the contract negotiations with ASR we carefully looked through the contract and found there were areas where we could make significant savings, particularly on accommodation and fuel, and subsequently we arranged for much more cost-effective accommodation.”

The council confirmed it does not normally provide accommodation for contractors but said the surf reef was a “unique project,” with staff coming from abroad and staying for a long period.

It admitted the rent has been paid while workers have been in New Zealand but said other ASR representatives have used the accommodation during this time.

Yesterday, the Daily Echo revealed how the Boscombe regeneration scheme’s costs had soared from £8.291m to £11.07m. The surf reef will now cost £3.03m instead of the original estimate of £1.359m while the Overstrand refurbishment needs an extra £678,000.

Costs associated with the surf pods, which were not in the original budget, total £757,000.