More than £7,000 of taxpayer money has been spent sending councillors and staff on a trip to the south of France.

Last week the leader of Merton Council Stephen Alambritis, Councillor Martin Whelton and two unnamed regeneration officers were flown off to Cannes to take part in MIPIM, a four-day real estate exhibition.

It has now been revealed that each ticket to the event came at a cost of £1,800 (£7,200 in total), for which the council used public money to fund.

In an email sent to several councillors which has been seen by the Wimbledon Times, it said the decision was worthwhile because of the "need to promote Morden’s regeneration."

RELATED: Merton Council votes to increase council tax by maximum amount

"The next phase of regenerating Morden involves attracting large scale external investors," the email read.

"It is for this reason that Future Merton has proposed attendance at MIPIM.

"The leader (Alambritis) and Councillor Whelton together with two regeneration officers will be attending.

"Going to this event often attracts adverse publicity as it is easy to characterise it as a publicly funded junket in the south of France.

RELATED: 'Incredibly complex' regeneration of Morden could start in 2021

"For this reason amongst others Merton has not attended in the past, though many other London boroughs have.

"The need to promote Morden’s regeneration has led the administration to the view that the risk of the bad publicity is worth running in pursuit of a larger public good."

This decision was met with backlash from many, including deputy leader of Merton Conservatives, Daniel Holden, who said the money would be better of spent closer to home.

RELATED: Budget backlash as little league fees kept and more police officers rejected

“Less than a week after seeing their council tax increased by the largest possible amount, residents will be shocked to learn that Merton Labour have headed off to Cannes at rate payers’ expense," he said.

"With much needed services being cut, it sticks in the throat that Councillors Alambritis and Whelton have taken the decision to attend an international property conference at the cost of £1,800 a ticket.

"As a London council, Merton has key developers and financiers right on its doorstep so it seems the only reason for this junket is to give Labour councillors a week of winter sun.”

RELATED: Merton Council once suspended an employee WITH pay for 503 days

A Merton Council spokeswoman said that as well as Morden, the trip was also used to raise the profile of Wimbledon.

“This is the first time that Merton Council has attended MIPIM, the premier real estate event which gathers the most influential people from all sectors of the international property industry, and we went as part of a London Councils delegation," she said.

“We were there to broker relationships with investors and funders interested in the regeneration of Morden, a prime location for future development in London.

“We were also raising the profile of the borough as a whole and awareness of investment opportunities as part of the masterplan for the development of Wimbledon, a destination which attracts visitors from across the world.”