A Hartlepool councillor is calling for closer scrutiny of car mileage claims after it was revealed the authority paid out over £430,000 in one year.
Hartlepool Borough Council paid car allowance mileage claims totalling £433,076.73 to staff and councillors who used their own vehicles for council business during 2014-15.
Based on a rate of 52.5p per mile, it equates to just under 825,000 miles racked up – enough to circle the earth’s equator more than 34 times.
The council says all expenditure, including mileage claims, is closely monitored and journeys taken help provide vital services.
But Councillor David Riddle, who represents Hart ward, says the council could have saved itself more than £60,000 if it paid mileage at a lower 45p rate used by other councils and businesses.
Coun Riddle said: “Over a third of all local authorities pay the 45p per mile mileage allowance recommended by the UK Tax Office, but for some reason Hartlepool Borough Council insists on paying an over-generous 52.5p per mile costing an additional £61,000 a year.
“However it’s the sheer scale of the claims at nearly half-a-million pounds that will shock many residents.
“Some mileage is essential – for example, for social workers – but how much of the rest is really required and how closely monitored are the claims?
“We’re constantly being told about Government cuts being the reason for reduced services and it’s true that the Tory government isn’t doing Hartlepool any favours – but the council really needs to put its own house in order first before bleating about Government cuts, and these mileage claims suggest that there’s a long way to go yet before this can truly be said to have happened.”
The amount paid in mileage claims was revealed following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the council by town resident Steve Latimer.
A council spokesman told the Mail the allowance figure has been agreed by the authority and all claims are monitored and audited.
He said: “There is monitoring and auditing of all council expenditure including car mileage claims.
“Like many organisations, we have staff who use their own vehicles to help in the day-to-day provision of vital council services and they receive the agreed allowance.”