CLAIMS that staff from Taunton’s UK Hydrographic Office wined and dined at the taxpayers’ expense on a yachting jolly have been denied.

The team also paid their own travel expenses and attended the Civil Service team-bonding exercise on the Isle of Wight during their annual leave.

And rather than a “booze fuelled regatta” at public expense, as the event was labelled in a national newspaper, they helped raise £8,000 for four charities -Taunton Sea Cadets, Sail for Cancer, The Royal National Life Boats Institute and the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA).

The Daily Mail story said staff from several Government offices, including the UKHO, attended the Inter Departmental Offshore Regatta last week.

It said an MoD team from the UKHO posted photos of themselves on social media eating dinner and drinking cider and wine on board their 36ft yacht and also Tweeted about having fun at a quiz night.

A UKHO spokesman told the County Gazette: “No public money was used to organise the event and it must be stressed that all UKHO personnel used their own annual leave to attend and they also paid for their own food and travel expenses.”

A Government spokesman said: “This sailing event, which raises money for charity, is organised by volunteers and funded by entry fees from members and from monthly subscription fees.

“Taxpayers’ funding is not being used for this event. Staff are also expected to take leave to participate.”