New Research: Departmental use of Taxis and Chauffeured Cars

The business of Government, just like any other, often takes people out of the office. Whether for a meeting or an event, civil servants and ministers frequently have to travel, and sometimes a taxi or chauffeured car is the most appropriate way.

But in 2008, 19 (of the 20) Government departments spent in excess of £8 million on taxis and hired private cars between them.   Despite the availability of fairly reliable public transport – and decent pavements – public servants often opted for the more expensive taxi ride even when making a short journey. More worryingly, thousands were spent just paying for taxis to wait.

Not all of this £8 million was spent frivolously. Yet with Government departments under pressure to be more efficient, every penny of this spending must be put under scrutiny. The evidence from 2008 suggests that public officials are using cars for journeys which could be made with a cheaper alternative. Departments must now tighten up their rules, limiting the use of taxis to only the most essential journeys.

Download the full report (PDF).

Key findings

  • 19 (of the 20) Whitehall departments spent more than £8 million on taxis and hired car services between them, averaging over £420,000 per department.
  • Almost £2.5 million was spent on taxis.
  • The remaining £5.5 million was spent on the ‘Government Car and Dispatch Agency’ (GCDA). The Department of Communities and Local Government was the biggest user of the GCDA, spending over £534,000.
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was the biggest spender, with a bill for over £1.2 million just for its operations in the UK.
  • In November 2008, over £6,600 was wasted by just four departments, paying for taxis to wait. This equated to a total of more than 28 hours of waiting.
  • Addison Lee (and its affiliate Premier Despatch) was the most used private company, paid nearly £835,000.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Current spending on taxis and chauffeured cars is excessive.  When ordinary businesses are trying to save money by getting employees to take the bus, it is only fair that public officials do the same. Some taxi rides on the taxpayers’ pound are unavoidable, but too much is being spent on the luxury of convenience while cheaper options are available.”
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