Green chief in sports car controversy

SUFFOLK'S Tory environment chief faced criticism today after splashing out on a gas guzzling 'muscle car' despite preaching about cutting emissions.

Neil Puffett

SUFFOLK'S Tory environment chief faced criticism today after splashing out on a gas guzzling 'muscle car' despite preaching about cutting emissions.

The Evening Star has learnt that Eddy Alcock, responsible for environment at Suffolk County Council, has been driving a 3.5 litre Nissan 350Z Roadster to and from council functions since October.

The two-seater convertible boasts a powerful V6 engine capable of 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds.

Meanwhile he shunned public transport to rack up a staggering 10,000 car miles on council business last year, claiming a whopping £3,899 in mileage expenses.

Mr Alcock, who previously went on record saying everyone has a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions, has come in for harsh criticism over his actions. Prior to the high-powered roadster he drove a more modest two-litre motor.

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Friends of The Earth have branded the situation “outrageous” claiming Mr Alcock is an unsuitable choice to lead Suffolk on environmental issues.

Spokeswoman Mary Edwards said: “He is unable to differentiate what is the best environmental message for Suffolk and this shows he is unfit for the job.”

The list of Mr Alcock's journeys in his sporty motor, which rates bottom of the class in a table on CO2 emissions, includes an 80 mile round-trip to the launch of a green initiative in Norwich last November.

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

In total he racked up a staggering 9,700 car miles on expenses during the last financial year despite his role at Suffolk County Council involving promoting the use of public transport to make the county greener.

Mr Alcock's mileage was only exceeded by economic and cultural development portfolio holder Lisa Chambers, who lives more than double the distance from the county coucnil's Endeavour House headquarters in Ipswich.

The revelations come at a time when the Tory party is attempting to re-brand as a “green party” with leader David Cameron regularly riding a bike to work.

Mr Alcock has defended his sports car, claiming it has good fuel economy and points to the fact that he has installed solar panels at his home.

“My carbon footprint is very small,” he said. “My car does almost 30 miles to the gallon because it is a modern engine.”

He added that it was often inconvenient to use public transport to travel to functions as it would make it difficult for him to travel on to subsequent appointments.

Is Mr Alcock the right person to carry the environmental banner in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

DOCUMENTS relating to councillor expenses studied by The Evening Star reveal Mr Alcock was questioned on a number of occasions via e-mail about whether some of the journeys he claimed for fell within the council's guidelines.

Replying to an e-mail sent to him last December querying three claims, Mr Alcock wrote that he “resented” being quizzed on his expenses and is paid “peanuts” to do his job - despite the fact he received £27,735 in allowances and expenses from the public purse last year.

In the e-mail, sent to a council officer, he said: “These questions are becoming tedious.

“I was invited to the opening of a pre-school as their local councillor and as a substantial donor from my locality budget.

“If that's a problem I can refuse all future similar invitations as they might be a 40-mile road trip if at the other end of my patch.

“I don't see why I should pay for the petrol and wear and tear on my car.

“It seems unreasonable to me that our integrity should be questioned in this way.

“This job already takes between 50 and 60 hours of my week for peanuts pay.

“I resent spending some of that time answering these questions.”

Mr Alcock this week said there was “excellent scrutiny” of councillor expenses but felt the parameters for what can be claimed should be extended.

According to a carbon emission calculator, a Nissan 350Z Roadster emits 4.37 tonnes of CO2 when driven for 9,700 miles.

A Peugeot 107 1litre would expel 1.7tonnes of CO2 over the same distance. A 1.6litre Ford Focus emits 2.48 tonnes over the same distance.

The controversial car:

Nissan 350Z Roadster (convertible)

Price: £27,000

Engine: 3.5 litre V6

Power: 280bhp

CO2 emissions: 280g/km

Acceleration 0-62: 6.4sec

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel Consumption: urban 16.8 mpg, extra urban 32.1 mpg, combined 24.1 mpg

Cabinet members and their cars

Engine size mileage claim

Eddy Alcock (environment) 3.5 litre £3,899

Jane Storey (deputy leader) 1.9 litre £3,386

Graham Newman (adult services) 1.9 litre £2,550

Jeremy Pembroke (leader) 1.8 litre £2,905

Guy McGregor (transport) 1.8 litre £2,742

Lisa Chambers (economic) 1.4 litre £4,688

Patricia O'Brien (children) 1.4 litre £1,174

Joanna Spicer (public protection) 1.0 litre £3,133