Council spends over 40k on mayoral cars

Thursday, 23 August 2018

COUNCIL has defended spending more than 40,000 of ratepayers' money on mayoral transport over the last three years.
It has emerged that since 2015, Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) has spent a total of 41,774 on providing transport for its civic head.
The figure was unearthed following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) - a spending watchdog campaigning for government transparency and an end to wasteful government spending - to all local authorities across the UK.
Its report - published yesterday (Tuesday) - found that 207 local authorities across the UK spent more than 4.5m on cars for mayors, lord mayors, lord provosts and chairmen.
In the three year-period the 11 Northern Ireland councils spent 165,286 on the purchase and running of vehicles including expenditure on fuel, maintenance and other costs such as tax and insurance.
DCSDC's bill is the second highest of the NI councils topped only by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council's 48,421 bill.
The local authority has spent a combined 34,450 on two Ford vehicles - a Vignale and Mondeo. Council has confirmed that only one car has been purchased since April 2015, the other was purchased in 2007/8.
The fuel bill came in at 4,696 with maintenance spend standing at 2,028. Personalised number plates cost DCSDC a further 600.
In its response to the FOI, council confirmed that the Ford Vignale has a seven-year maintenance contract so no costs were attributed there.
The expenditure incurred by local authorities has been branded 'excessive' by the TPA which is urging all town halls to cut their spending by having politicians attend events by using their own methods of transport, public transport or at the very least to stop buying luxury cars.
Defending its expenditure, DCSDC said the vehicles are essential in allowing the First Citizen to attend functions and carry-out mayoral duties across the entire district.
A spokesperson advised that it has spent an average of 16,200 per annum on mayoral cars since April 2015.
"The total spend includes the purchase of one car and associated maintenance and fuel costs.
"Council considers the cars essential in allowing the mayor to attend as many community and business events as possible throughout the council area and beyond," he added.
Only four councils in Northern Ireland were confirmed as not using official vehicles to allow mayors or their equivalents to undertake council duties. These are; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid-Ulster District Council and Newry, Mourne and Down Councils.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council did not provide a response to the request from the spending watchdog for figures.
Commenting on the findings of its investigation, John O'Connell, TPA chief executive 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 but families who struggle to pay their council tax bill will roll their eyes at the thought of their hard-earned money being spent on Bentleys and Jaguars for politicians to attend functions.
He added: "Forty per-cent 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."



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