Council bosses have defended spending almost £18,500 on its mayoral car in Hartlepool, as campaigners urge local authorities to cut their spending.
Hartlepool Borough Council has spent £18,397.22 on its mayoral car since 2015, figures from the TaxPayers Alliance (TPA) reveal.
The TPA said in total £15,545.91 has been spent by the council on ‘leasing’ the Skoda Octavia, which also includes maintenance costs of the vehicle, while £2,851.31 has been spent on fuel.
The TPA accused mayors across the country of carrying out ‘generally mundane and little cared-for functions’ and called on them to pay for their own travel.
However Hartlepool Borough Council bosses said it bought its car outright in 2007 in a bid to be more cost and fuel efficient and ‘leasing’ figures refer to an internal accounting procedure.
A council spokesman said: “The council bought the existing civic car – a standard Skoda saloon – in 2007 when we purposely downsized from a larger, less fuel-efficient and less cost-effective vehicle.
“As the council owns the car, the ‘leasing’ figure referred to by the TaxPayers’ Alliance is in fact nothing more than an internal accounting procedure under which the council section which maintains the vehicle – Fleet Services – charges the council section which is responsible for its use as the civic car.
“The civic car plays a key role in transporting the Mayor to and from the many community and other events at which he or she represents the town – events which, contrary to the claims made by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, are important and matter a great deal to the local people who are involved in them.”
Coun Allan Barclay is the current Ceremonial Mayor of Hartlepool, after being handed the chains in May this year.
Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council also has a Skoda Octavia for its civic car, and spent a total of £14,568.36 on leasing the vehicle and fuel.
In the past three years Durham County Council has spent £37,392 on mayoral cars, including costs for leasing, fuel and insurance, and has moved from leasing two Skoda Superbs to one to reduce costs.
Adrian White, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, said: “In common with many councils across the country, we believe it is appropriate that our chairman/mayor and vice-chairman are transported to events at which they are representing the authority.
“Following the expiry of contract hire agreements in 2016/7, we moved from two lease vehicles to one and this has contributed to a reduction in expenditure over the last three years.”
Nationwide the average spend by local authorities is £21,804, however 39% of councils do not own or lease cars, and others are being encouraged to do the same.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing local authorities say they have no money left when there are still instances of excessive spending.
“Some travel will of course be necessary to conduct duties.
“40% of councils didn’t lease or buy cars, so all other local authorities should follow that example and encourage civic leaders to use cheaper forms of transport.
“Every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service