Cash-strapped Lancashire councils are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds leasing top-of-the-range cars as perks for staff.
Four councils - Lancashire County Council, Preston, Chorley and Ribble Valley - provide lease vehicles for top-ranking employees as part of remunerations packages.
Supplying leased cars - including a Jaguar XJ and XF, three Audis and three BMWs - for 41 senior staff costs Preston Council £198,000 a year, at a time when the local authority is looking to save £3m over the next three years and is set to raise council tax by two per cent.
Chorley Council supplies lease cars to 71 employees, and the Mayor for civic duties, at a cost of £197,624 a year. The Mayor’s Toyota Prius costs £4,379 under a lease signed in 2011.
Lancashire County Council’s lease costs add up to almost £83,000 for 17 cars, with the most expensive a Land Rover Evoque for a deputy director at £5,907 a year.
Ribble Valley Council has a dozen employees driving leased cars, with a bill of £55,342 a year. Its chief executive, who earns £92,000 a year, is offered an Audi A5 Sportback which costs £6,908 a year to lease.
Figures were revealed under a Freedom of Information request. South Ribble, Fylde, Lancaster and Wyre councils said they do not provide any lease cars for staff.
Robert Lewis of Lancashire taxpayers’ group Is It Fair? said: “It’s just wrong. They get paid a lot of money. Let them buy the cars.”
Preston Council said the scheme was now closed, with newer senior officers including chief executive Lorraine Norris, not entitled to lease cars. Mrs Norris said: “In 1995, the council changed its employment contracts so that lease cars were not available to new staff. Now we have just 41 employees with lease cars compared to over 70 in 2007. This figure will further reduce in future years as employees leave the council.”
Chorley’s chief executive Gary Hall said: “The lease car scheme is part of the terms and conditions of employment. The council pays a contribution to the cost of the lease and the rest is met by the employee.
“It is used as a way of retaining staff who help to provide excellent services for residents and it is part of the overall remuneration package.”
A Ribble Valley Council spokesman said: “The maximum contribution that the council makes to a leased car has recently been reduced to 7.5 per cent of the employee’s salary. The employee meets any shortfall between the cost of the vehicle and the council’s contribution.”
Phil Halsall, chief executive of Lancashire County Council, said: “The county council offers lease cars to a limited number of senior managers at director level and above as part of their overall remuneration package in order to be able to compete with similar local authorities and the private sector for their expertise and experience.”
LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
Seventeen staff have lease cars, including a Mercedes C220 and three Audis. The vehicles are valued at between £19,600 and £43,200.
Forty-one employees have lease cars, for senior, principal and chief officers. The top-priced vehicle is a £44,000 Jaguar XJ saloon.
Seventy-one employees are provided with lease cars, costing up to £5,635 a year for a Volkswagen Tiguan for a departmental head.
RIBBLE VALLEY COUNCIL
Twelve staff use leased vehicles, ranging from a Peugeot 207 to an Audi A5 Sportback and Hyundai Sante Fe Premium.