Council staff drive to the moon 80 times

COUNTY staff racked up a staggering 20million business miles in the space of just 12 months, new statistics have shown.

Neil Puffett

COUNTY staff racked up a staggering 20million business miles in the space of just 12 months, new statistics have shown.

The phenomenal distance - the equivalent of around 80 trips to the moon - was clocked up by staff travelling on council business delivering services.

This includes officers visiting elderly people at home, visiting schools, maintaining council assets and property, inspecting and maintaining roads and bridges, and attending meetings with colleagues, partners and the public.

Council chiefs are keen to reduce the figure and cut their carbon emissions but concede their target of reducing it by three per cent by next year will be tough to hit.

Mileage rates have been increasing each year since 1999/2000 when 15.4million miles were clocked up compared to 19.9million last year - an increase of 29 per cent.

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However the latest figure, which does not include mileage by councillors, commuting figures, teacher mileage claimed from individual school budgets or train and plane miles, represented a fall of 0.4 pc on the 2006/07 mileage.

Peter Bellfield - chair of the resource, finance and performance scrutiny committee said it is important to minimise vehicle use so the authority can reduce its carbon footprint.

He said: “Given the wide range of services we provide we will always travel many miles but that figure has got to come down.

“I am pleased that our mileage has stabilised but that's not good enough yet.

“The committee report contains some good proposals to bring about reductions and we will be closely monitoring the officer's efforts to hit our targets".

The man in charge of ensuring the figure goes down, environment chief Eddy Alcock, racked up close to 10,000 car miles himself last year on expenses.

He came in for criticism for using a 3.5litre Nissan 350ZX roadster, capable of 0-62 in 6.4 seconds, to whizz around on council business.

His trips included an 80-mile round-trip to the launch of a green initiative in Norwich last November.

He also opted to drive on a 424-mile round-trip to a function in Leeds last July rather than taking the train.

Other councils:-

Ipswich Borough Council clocked up a total of 208,000 business miles between April 2007 and the end of March this year.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “We have introduced the greener travel plan and we are trying to reduce the number of miles as much as possible on an ongoing basis.”

A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said staff at the authority ran up between 200,000 and 220,000 business miles for the same period.

Mileage facts

- More than 5million miles are travelled by the council's fleet which includes the fire service, highways maintenance and transporting children to school.

- The provision of services to care for the elderly and vulnerable members of the community in their homes accounts for over 5million miles.

- The council currently encourages staff to question the need meet face to face, offers the option of working from home, encourages car sharing and the use facilities such as audio and video conferencing all of which help to reduce the miles travelled.