Council paying mileage to cyclists

STAFF at a west Suffolk council are being paid a mileage allowance to ride their bicycles, it has emerged.While drivers at St Edmundsbury Borough Council can claim 39.

STAFF at a west Suffolk council are being paid a mileage allowance to ride their bicycles, it has emerged.

While drivers at St Edmundsbury Borough Council can claim 39.9p a mile to cover the costs of using their cars for work, the EADT can reveal staff and members are being offered 20p a mile to use their bikes instead.

And the council yesterday confirmed a further mileage rate - for staff walking on foot - might also be looked into.

Although just a handful of staff and council members have signed up to the cycling mileage system, the council hopes it could spur others to opt for greener work travel.

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For council members, cycle mileage can be claimed both for carrying out council business and for travelling to meetings.

For staff, cycling mileage can only be claimed by officers carrying out council business and not for travelling into work.

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Jeremy Farthing, the council's cabinet member for the environment, who drives because he lives in Stradishall, said: “Clearly anything that is going to reduce the number of vehicle miles has got to be a good idea.

“Because St Edmundsbury is a fairly rural borough, most people do have no choice than to get in their cars - but there are various councillors who live in Bury St Edmunds who come in by bike.”

Asked whether the council should also be offering a mileage payment for those using simply their feet, Mr Farthing said: “It is something that we could look at and that would probably be something for a policy panel to investigate. But it is a good idea.”

One of the councillors who has claimed cycle mileage is Paul Farmer, who said: “Most of my journeys I do not claim for.

“On the mileage sheet that goes around at meetings, I just put 'by bike'. I think it is a very good scheme because it encourages people not to use their cars so much and the amount given helps pay for the wear and tear to a bicycle.”

Chrissie Harrod, president of Bury's Chamber of Commerce, said: “It has got to be a good idea and it is great that the council is leading the way on this.

“We will be surveying our members to see what people are doing in terms of greener travel and we would obviously encourage other businesses to do this.”

The cycling mileage scheme was also welcomed by the charity Sustrans, which promotes green travel.

Nigel Brigham, Sustrans' regional manager for the east of England, said: “Encouraging councillors and staff to cycle to work makes sense - it's good economics, good for people's health and good for the environment. There is a growing cycle network in the district, particularly in Bury St Edmunds, which includes two National Cycle Network routes. We welcome all initiatives to encourage people to use these routes.”

David Nettleton, a Real Independent councillor on the borough council, said he would like to see all mileage schemes scrapped and both staff and members given an annual allowance based on their living distance from the borough offices. He said such a system would leave people who used greener forms of transport better off.

The council was unable to state, at the time of going to press, the value of cycle mileage expenses paid to its staff and members because it would have involved going through each expenses form.

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