Concern over council staff travel bill
TAXPAYERS in a Suffolk district have been forking out more than £1,000 a day in travel fees for council staff, it emerged last night.The shocking figures have prompted a major clampdown on travelling expenses by finance bosses at Babergh District Council.
TAXPAYERS in a Suffolk district have been forking out more than £1,000 a day in travel fees for council staff, it emerged last night.
The shocking figures have prompted a major clampdown on travelling expenses by finance bosses at Babergh District Council.
The major cuts on travelling allowances which have been put forward by top ranking council managers will prove a “hell of a shock” to some staff, a leading council member warned last night.
All car user allowances will now be capped, staff entitlement to allowances will be scrutinised and lease car deals are to be ring-fenced so that only existing staff will eligible for such arrangements.
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The council hopes to save thousands of pounds as a result of the swingeing cuts.
The total cost to the public purse of car allowances and leased vehicles currently stands at £370,000 each year.
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It was also revealed how some staff, who need to drive as part of their work, were given golden lump sums of up to £1,000 a year - on top of their mileage expenses.
The cutbacks, which finance officers hope will save nearly £90,000 a year within five years, have been met with a “mixed response” from council staff.
Great Cornard councillor Humphrey Todd, chairman of the Human Resources panel which has backed the clampdown proposals, said: “It is such a high figure and that is why the panel sought to review it and look at alternatives, after detailed discussion with Unison.
“It is a lot of money and the council is always under pressure to reduce costs so this was something we had to look at most carefully.
“We are aware it is going to be a hell of a shock to some people but we hope that we have given them reasonable notice to hopefully minimise any trauma while still meeting the council's needs to save money.”
Officials from both Unison and the council admitted the plans - which aim to cut car allowances and the council's leased car scheme - had brought a mixed response among staff.
The council's Unison secretary Heather Worton told the EADT: “All along, we have obviously not wanted to see our members lose any money.
“But we are aware the council has to make substantial savings and we have been in negotiations for quite a considerable time.
“The proposals have brought about a mixed response and some members of staff will lose out on a lot of money - unfortunately, there will be winners and losers.”
John Raine, the council's head of organisational development, said: “For some officers, travelling makes up a fair chunk of their job. Therefore, there has been a mixed reaction, especially by those who are directly impacted.
“It has always been a difficult issue to address and there has been a history of attempts to reduce it and this has caused some controversy.
We have always looked to find savings from elsewhere but year after year it has got tighter.”
The recommendations of the HR panel - which also include encouraging staff to drive lower emission cars and working from home - are expected to come into effect in April next year, if they are approved by the council tomorrow.