April 1 2015 Latest news:
West Suffolk reporter
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
A west Suffolk council has defended its £135,000 spend on staff travel expenses that has left other local authorities in the region in the shade.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council racked up the bill in the 2012/13 financial year – the year it began sharing services with Forest Heath, with staff increasingly working across both authorities.
Its payouts on mileage, public transport and subsistence were higher than other councils in the region for which figures were available. Ipswich Borough Council spent £118,000, while Harlow District Council spent £72,000.
The bill for neighbouring Forest Heath district, Cambridge city and Chelmsford city councils were less than half St Edmundsbury’s total spend.
The council says that moving to a shared service has saved £3.5million for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath combined, while a spokeswoman attributed the authority’s spending to covering a large geographical and rural area, including Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and a number of west Suffolk villages
She added: “Many staff travel as part of their job. They include staff making site visits, such as the environmental health inspectors, planning officers, property surveyors and the park rangers, who work at several places.
“The councils keep travel costs down by using pool cars, car sharing and tele and video conferencing to save journeys.”
Old staff are based at one office and can claim travel between Bury and Mildenhall, but new appointments are dual-based and cannot.
According to Freedom of Information requests, around 190 staff claims are processed by St Edmundsbury each month, compared to between 75-85 for Forest Heath, Ipswich and Cambridge.