65p a mile paid to East Cambs Council staff -20p a mile more than other Cambs councils - criticised by spending watchdog
PUBLISHED: 10:39 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:40 10 November 2017
Unofficial public spending watchdog the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) singled out East Cambridgeshire District Council for being among 173 local authorities that pay its employees 65p a mile for using their own car.
The alliance claims the 65p a mile allowance paid by East Cambs (councillors receive 45p a mile) is 20p a mile above the “approved” rate by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
All other councils across Cambridgeshire pay 45p a mile, according to Freedom of Information request figures obtained by the alliance.
Jo Brooks, operations director at East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “East Cambridgeshire District Council has always strategically saved and invested money to make sure we squeeze every penny from the pound.
“Our aim to uphold a balanced budget and provide a quality service for our residents continues into 2017 and this has meant that this will be the fourth year in a row that we have frozen council tax.
“Our balanced budget has also allowed us to maintain the position of paying the current allowance for business travel for larger vehicles.
“This rate was based on National Joint Council for Local Government mileage guidance.”
But John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA, said councils nationally are paying millions more than they should in mileage payments.
“HMRC has an approved rate for mileage payments, and yet 173 councils are giving their employees above that rate,” he said.
“We first exposed this needless waste of taxpayers’ money back in 2011 and some councils have shown that reducing their mileage payments to the approved rate is an easy way of saving millions without affecting any council services.
“However, too many still pay above what they should, costing taxpayers millions and unfairly redistributing money to public sector employees.
“The Department for Communities and Local Government has even told councils to stop doing paying above the approved rate for the past five years.”
Mr O’Conell added: “No local authority should be paying more than HMRC’s approved rate.”
In 2015-16 East Cambs Council paid out £67,891 in mileage payments compared to £69,048 in 2016-17.
In Fenland, that retains the mileage rate of 45p, payments fell in 2016-17 to £79,674 from £83,150 the year before.
Ironically Peterborough City Council dropped mileage payments in 2016-17 from 45p to 25p a mile. It saved Peterborough taxpayers £175,000 as costs dropped from £496.949 in 2015-16 to £320,330 last year.