Council under fire for paying £8m expenses

Council leader Ken Thornber
Council leader Ken Thornber

County council grant aims to reduce household waste

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HAMPSHIRE County Council paid out more than £8m in mileage expenses last year.

Critics say the expenditure – revealed by the Taxpayers’ Alliance – is a waste of public money.

The pressure group’s leader, Emma Boon, said: ‘Hampshire’s a big county but this is a huge amount, paid at a time when councils are under intense financial pressure. It’s basically a taxable perk for council employees.’

Hampshire shelled out £8.08m in 2010-2011, the second highest amount of any council.

Although the organisation concedes the council employs a large number of people and covers a big area, it was also critical of the mileage rate it set.

Hampshire paid an average of 53.5p per mile, well above the 40p per mile recommended by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. It means each employee was given £135 more per 1,000 miles driven than national guidance recommends.

Ms Boon said: ‘Paying above the rate makes no sense and is unjustifiable.’

Council leader Ken Thornber said in a statement that senior managers received the lower recommended rate of 40p a mile, while lower-paid staff claimed the 53.5p. He added that this is reduced to 25p over a certain number of miles.

‘We are also encouraging flexible working to reduce the need for staff to make business journeys,’ he added.

Portsmouth City Council and East Hampshire District Council paid 40p per mile.

Gosport Borough Council paid 65p per mile.

Leader Mark Hook, said: ‘I’m hoping we’ll reduce that figure. It depends on the size of the vehicle. But we’ll look to reduce it at our next full council meeting.’

Fareham Borough Council disputed the 52.2p per mile which the alliance claimed it paid to staff last year.

It insisted it paid 40p a mile. Figures show Havant Borough Council paid up to 65p a mile, but head of logistics Nigel Street said this wasn’t the average and was just the maximum.