Cheshire East councillors get a free ride on taxpayers' money

December 20, 2011 12:00 PM

Cheshire East Council, which last week revealed it had a serious budget deficit, has rejected an amendment that would have reduced its mileage allowance for councillors to HMRC recommended levels. Council Leader Wesley Fitzgerald has claimed that the agreed cut from 65p to 52.2p a mile is a victory for spending restraint, but in reality councillors and council staff are still getting a free ride on taxpayers’ money and incurring unnecessary costs for the Council.

Mileage allowances are payments by employers to employees who have to use their car for work. The allowance is meant to compensate for the cost of petrol, vehicle depreciation and repairs. George Osborne increased the recommended allowance to 45p-a-mile in the Budget back in March, acknowledging the high cost of motoring and the pressure this puts on drivers who need their car for work.

TaxPayers’ Alliance research, however, has revealed that many council employees receive far in excess of the HMRC approved rate. In 2009-10, Cheshire East was one of the worst performing in the country, paying out a massive £4,045,601 in allowances to councillors and council employees. The research also revealed that the council increased allowances from 60.10p to 65p-per-mile between 2009-10 and 2010-11, a time when politicians and executives knew that necessary spending reductions would have to be made. While Council Leader Fitzgerald might claim that the agreed reduction is evidence of Cheshire East’s willingness to cut back on employees’ benefits, it’s more like a reversal of a disgraceful previous increase.

Another Cheshire East Councillor, Sam Corcoran, was more critical in November, and rightly so. He said that any payment above the HMRC recommended rate ‘not only wastes money but also adds to bureaucracy’. He also proposed the amendment that the council should only pay 45p-per-mile. Councillor Corcoran should be praised for acknowledging that any payment above HMRC recommendations involves extra administration for the Council alongside the excessive cost. The rest of the council would do well to take his recommendation on board.

Most importantly, however, the failure to reduce the allowance to 45p-per-mile is evidence that councillors are not making enough effort to find efficiency and waste savings before making reductions elsewhere. The reduction to 52.2p-per-mile for councillors will save £20,000 but the total cost of mileage allowances for council employees and councillors in Cheshire East was over £4 million in 2009-10. Council tax has almost doubled over the last decade and it is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money is being used to fund excessive benefits for council staff.Cheshire East Council, which last week revealed it had a serious budget deficit, has rejected an amendment that would have reduced its mileage allowance for councillors to HMRC recommended levels. Council Leader Wesley Fitzgerald has claimed that the agreed cut from 65p to 52.2p a mile is a victory for spending restraint, but in reality councillors and council staff are still getting a free ride on taxpayers’ money and incurring unnecessary costs for the Council.

Mileage allowances are payments by employers to employees who have to use their car for work. The allowance is meant to compensate for the cost of petrol, vehicle depreciation and repairs. George Osborne increased the recommended allowance to 45p-a-mile in the Budget back in March, acknowledging the high cost of motoring and the pressure this puts on drivers who need their car for work.

TaxPayers’ Alliance research, however, has revealed that many council employees receive far in excess of the HMRC approved rate. In 2009-10, Cheshire East was one of the worst performing in the country, paying out a massive £4,045,601 in allowances to councillors and council employees. The research also revealed that the council increased allowances from 60.10p to 65p-per-mile between 2009-10 and 2010-11, a time when politicians and executives knew that necessary spending reductions would have to be made. While Council Leader Fitzgerald might claim that the agreed reduction is evidence of Cheshire East’s willingness to cut back on employees’ benefits, it’s more like a reversal of a disgraceful previous increase.

Another Cheshire East Councillor, Sam Corcoran, was more critical in November, and rightly so. He said that any payment above the HMRC recommended rate ‘not only wastes money but also adds to bureaucracy’. He also proposed the amendment that the council should only pay 45p-per-mile. Councillor Corcoran should be praised for acknowledging that any payment above HMRC recommendations involves extra administration for the Council alongside the excessive cost. The rest of the council would do well to take his recommendation on board.

Most importantly, however, the failure to reduce the allowance to 45p-per-mile is evidence that councillors are not making enough effort to find efficiency and waste savings before making reductions elsewhere. The reduction to 52.2p-per-mile for councillors will save £20,000 but the total cost of mileage allowances for council employees and councillors in Cheshire East was over £4 million in 2009-10. Council tax has almost doubled over the last decade and it is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money is being used to fund excessive benefits for council staff.

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