HAMPSHIRE'S embattled social services boss Felicity Hindson was remaining tight-lipped today over her controversial £9,500 trip to New Zealand.

Cllr Hindson returned to her detached home in the leafy upmarket village of Exton ten miles from Winchester yesterday after her journey down under.

The Tory councillor was asked by the Daily Echo if she was prepared to comment on the row over her luxury journey down under.

But Cllr Hindson, looking relaxed and well rested after her 11,000-mile return flight from the country, refused to answer any questions about the trip with council social services officer Steve Love.

Instead she said she had to take her black Labrador dog for a walk and had no time to talk.

She said: "It was a very productive visit. I will be making a full report along with Steve Love to Cabinet."

Cllr Hindson returned to her £26,120 a year job as Hampshire County Council's cabinet member for social services yesterday after she and Mr Love flew to New Zealand three weeks ago in a bid to recruit social workers.

Controversy dogged their trip when it was revealed that they travelled business class at a cost of nearly £3,000 each - breaking council rules which say that employees and councillors should take economy class flights unless there were exceptional circumstances.

When she returned she found herself at the centre of a fresh row over the trip after angry parents of disabled youngsters in the county said the cash that paid for the business class flights should have been used to pay for a vital community worker for youngsters.

Both Cllr Hindson and Mr Love stayed in New Zealand for an extra two weeks after their fact-finding mission was completed.

Cllr Thornber wrote to both Cllr Hindson and Mr Love while they were away, asking them to repay part of the cost of their flights. Last night, Cllr Thornber was unavailable for comment.