Suffolk: Council mileage bill among highest in UK
PUBLISHED: 09:47 14 April 2011 | UPDATED: 10:28 14 April 2011
SUFFOLK County Council has one of the highest bills in Britain for mileage allowances for staff using their own cars, according to new figures published today.
Only six authorities paid out more than Suffolk in 2009/10, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
However, the county has one of the lowest mileage rates – it only pays staff 40p a mile while some authorities pay as much as 65p per mile.
The county saw its mileage bill rise between 2009 and 2010 from £6.1million to £6.3m – although it had been trying to reduce the number of miles its staff drive.
While the cost of mileage in Suffolk rose, neighbouring Norfolk County Council managed to cut its mileage costs from £6.2m to £5.8m between 2009 and 2010.
Geoff Dobson, Suffolk’s head of finance, said: “Suffolk County Council provides a wide range of public services to hundreds of thousands of people across a large, and mostly rural, county area.
“As such, some of our staff who are involved in and deliver those services incur travel costs.
“Suffolk County Council is always concerned with keeping such costs to a minimum which is why we pay less per mile than other authorities and as part of our current budget savings, we are making further reductions in terms of travel.”
Suffolk Liberal Democrat resource management spokesman Andrew Cann said: “I don’t often agree with the Taxpayers’ Alliance but this shows up what we have been saying for some time – that the council has not got a grip on its mileage claims.
“If the county council wants people to take its greenest county credentials seriously, it needs to do something about this. If it saved money on mileage by organising things like tele-conferencing, it would have more money for services that people really value, like lollipop ladies.”
Suffolk interim leader Jane Storey said the council was trying to reduce the amount of miles people drove – but there were problems in a rural county.
She said: “People need to use their cars to visit elderly people or to check out potholes – but everyone tries to use vehicles as little as possible. But there is more to being the greenest county than cutting back on visits to the elderly.”
Derrick Murphy, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Norfolk is a large rural county and for many of our staff, especially those providing services to vulnerable people in their own homes, some amount of car travel for business purposes will always be necessary.
“We have been working hard to limit the amount of miles that staff need to travel and subsequently claim mileage for – reducing the cost to the tax payer, and also playing a key role in our ongoing work to reduce our carbon emissions.
“Before setting off, we ask that staff consider whether their journey is necessary and whether practical alternatives can be used, such as the use of telephone and video conferencing, car sharing to their destination, or using public transport or other forms of green travel.
“Overall, given the rural nature of our county and its size, some lengthy journeys by car will always be required in order to deliver our vital public services, but our staff will continue to assess whether there are alternatives to lone travel by car for their journey -–helping to reduce our mileage claims, in order to save both money and the environment.”
The Suffolk district with the highest mileage bill was Waveney, whose drivers were paid nearly £350,000 in 2009/10.
This was still £25,000 less than the previous year – in 2009 Waveney cut its mileage payment from 60p to 40p a mile.
And a spokesman for the council said the figure had been cut by a further £100,000 in the 2010-11 financial year.
And Forest Heath, which paid the highest rate for mileage at 65p a mile in 2010, has since lowered its rate to 45p per mile.