£5million of tax payer cash on travel

MORE than £5million of tax-payers' cash was splashed out on paying for travel allowances for authority workers it has emerged.The figure of £5.2m, which does not include public transport fares, has sparked concerned reactions from councillors who have called on the Suffolk County Council to slash the figure next year.

MORE than £5million of tax-payers' cash was splashed out on paying for travel allowances for authority workers it has emerged.

The figure of £5.2m, which does not include public transport fares, has sparked concerned reactions from councillors who have called on the Suffolk County Council to slash the figure next year.

Of the total, around £2.7m was spent on essential car user allowances and £2.3m was spent on casual car user allowances for staff and councillors.

Andrew Cann, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the cost of transport should not simply be accepted at a time when every department of the cash-strapped authority had been asked to slash costs and job losses were on the agenda.

He said: “A lot of money is spent on mileage at 40p per mile.

“I know that this is the Whitehall rate, but we need to be looking carefully at where this money is going. I should expect that much of it is on travel to meetings.

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“I would like more information to be made available for scrutiny, especially in a year where we have been making big savings and even redundancies.”

The authority is made up of 75 councillors and directly employs 10,000 people, including mobile staff such as social workers.

More than £24m was cut from budgets for the 2006/7 financial year after the council received what it called a “devastating settlement from central government”.

Julian Swainson, deputy leader of the main opposition Labour group, said he was worried that the council's transport arrangements were not sympathetic enough to the environment.

He said: “I am less concerned about overall cost than the sustainability indicators. We should be looking at alternative means of travel to cut carbon emissions.”

Today, councillor Jane Storey, the council's portfolio holder for resources, finance and performance, defended the expenditure, claiming Suffolk was a large county and much of the council's business had to be conducted on a face-to-face basis.

However, she recognised the council did spend a lot on car mileage and said: “We recognise that people have to travel for council business, but we are encouraging them to 'think green' whenever possible.”

Some of the suggestions to achieve this include using public transport to get to and from meetings, car sharing, meetings via video conferencing and flexible working.

n. Do you think too much is spent on travel allowances? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

What are car user allowances?

Essential car user allowances are allocated to you if it is considered essential that you should have a car at your disposal, whenever required, in the interests of the efficient conduct of the business of the council

Causal car user allowances are allocated if it is considered desirable that you should have a car at your disposal

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