Suffolk: Cash-strapped police force paying 65p a mile for officers using their own vehicles for work purposes
PUBLISHED: 14:34 13 May 2014
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner last night pledged to raise concerns with the Government over “totally unacceptable” mileage expense rates claimed at the county’s cash-strapped force.
In the wake of swingeing budget cuts and abandoned proposals to combine Suffolk’s and Norfolk’s police control rooms, Tim Passmore said it was “extraordinary” officers and staff at the forces were able to claim back up to 65p per mile if they use their own car for police business.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) recommends 45p per mile is paid nationally but the Home Secretary sets the mileage rate for police officers.
The scrutiny comes as new figures unveiled under Freedom of Information laws found both forces spent almost £700,000 in mileage claims in 2013/14.
It increased for both forces in the last year. At Suffolk Constabulary, one director who clocked up 10,600 miles claimed back £5,900 in expenses. Another high-ranking staff member totalled 10,000 miles and received £5,800.
Both forces insist they follow national guidelines, arguing they are cheaper than renting vehicles or organising pool cars.
It comes as both forces continue to investigate further cost-cutting measures. They must find combined savings of almost £37m by March 2018, with Suffolk’s share estimated at £16.4m.
Last month, Mr Passmore scuppered a proposal for the county’s police control room to be merged with Norfolk’s when expressing “huge concerns” over its risk and timing. A combined control room is likely to save £1.84m a year for both forces.
The EADT has since launched a campaign to highlight where possible savings can be made.
Last night, Mr Passmore promised action to reduce the amount officers and staff can claim in vehicle expenses.
“I am concerned about the total mileage bill so I have tasked the Chief Constable to look at how we can reduce the amount of miles being claimed,” he said.
“I want to better understand the necessity for these individual officers to travel such huge distances to rack up these exceptionally high claims.”
The Home Secretary sets the mileage rate for police officers’ motor vehicle allowances, which is subject to agreement by the Police Negotiations Board.
Police officers and staff are paid allowances for the use of private vehicles in the course of their employment on either an essential or casual user allowance rate, according to the cubic capacity of their vehicle.
For the first 8,500 miles, casual users – where car use is desirable but not essential – can claim back, per mile, 46.9p for 451-999cc vehicles, 52.2p for 1,000-1,199cc vehicles and 65p for 1,200-1450cc vehicles. Thereafter, it drops to 13.7p, 14.4p and 16.4p.
For essential users, it is 36.9p, 40.9p and 50.5p respectively, falling to the same rate as casual users after 8.500 miles.
Mr Passmore added: “I find it totally unacceptable that mileage, in some cases, is claimed at 65p. I find it extraordinary that during a time of austerity the government has, so far, failed to reduce these mileage rates to HMRC levels.
“I have raised this at national level with policing minister, Damian Green. Within my own team however everybody claims a rate of 45p a mile.”
In 2013/14, some £382,617 was claimed at Norfolk Constabulary, while £304,472 was claimed at Suffolk Constabulary – a total of £687,089.
A spokesman for both forces said: “Officers and staff in the collaborated environment need to be able to travel between different work locations and the provision of mileage at the agreed national police rate is a cheaper solution than potentially having to rent additional vehicles for transport.
“Pool cars can be an expensive option when they are required to cover a number of locations where their efficient usage can vary.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “It is for chief constables and police and Crime Commissioners to manage their force’s expenditure so that they get the best value for money for residents.
“Motor vehicle allowance rates were agreed by the Police Negotiating Board when they were reviewed in 2012.”