Wednesday, August 09, 2006

290 times round the world: council expenses exposed

I'm demanding urgent action after discovering that Lincolnshire County Council employees and councillors clocked up enough miles on the rates last year to drive a staggering 290 times around the globe.

The 7.2 million miles driven last year by council employees and councillors on official county council business has shot up by almost a million in just two years – the increase alone is enough to drive an additional fleet of 34 cars around the earth.

The shock statistics had to be forced out of the council in response to a question from an Opposition Labour councillor - just weeks after the ruling Tories banned written questions at meetings.

I believe we must get an urgent grip on this mileage bill which has been allowed to spiral out of control, costing the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds extra and causing countless damage to the environment.

The biggest shock is that mileage has gone up by almost a million miles in just two years from 6.3 million to 7.2 million miles yet no-one seemed to know or care until the Labour group asked the right questions.

It’s a sign of how our council is run that these shocking figures only came to light thanks to a written question from a Labour councillor. The Tories may have shamefully banned printing such questions and answers in official council papers – but the people of Lincolnshire who pay the bills deserve to know the truth about how their money is spent.

The question was posed by my colleague in Lincoln, Lindsey Cawrey who is Chair of the Council’s Environmental Well Being Scrutiny Panel.

She said today: “These shock figures demonstrate why we need urgent action at all levels at the county council.

“At the last full Council meeting, the Tories refused to accept a Labour motion calling for the Council to set targets for each directorate to reduce energy use.

“Instead, they passed a long-winded resolution more concerned with scoring political points and attacking Government energy policy.”

“Responsibility for reducing energy consumption starts at the top and we need to be setting a better example.

Question from Councillor Lindsey Cawrey to the Portfolio Holder for Resources

Can you provide information please on the number of car miles travelled and claimed as an expense by County Council members and Officers on official business in each of the last three financial years.

Could you also say what efforts are being made to reduce the number of car miles travelled on official business.

Answer by Councillor Nick Carter

I am not aware, to date, of any official efforts to reduce work mileage. However, the formation of the Sustainable Communities Department and our commitment to reduce carbon emissions via the Carbon trust has highlighted this issue and the need to address the increasing mileage.

To make significant changes will require changes in HR policies as well as attitudes to travel. There could also be capital costs if we decided to use video-conferencing, pool cars etc.

There needs to be a detailed study into all these issues as rises of approx. 500,000 miles per year are obviously not sustainable.

Lincolnshire County Council
Annual Mileage Figures

Financial Year April 2003 – March 2004

County Councillors : 282,230 miles
LCC employees : 6,098,802

Annual total : 6,381,1032

Financial Year April 2004 – March 2005

County Councillors : 253,296 miles
LCC employees : 6,493,259 miles

Annual total : 6,746,555 miles

Financial Year April 2005 – March 2006

County Councillors : 302,582 miles
LCC employees : 6,931,022 miles

Annual total : 7,233,604 miles

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