As new figures reveal the cost to the taxpayer for mayors’ cars, councils say the ceremonial role supports businesses and charities –all at a cost effective price for the public.
The cost of driving Lancashire’s mayor to their many civic engagements has come under the microscope as new figures reveal the cost to the taxpayer of these journeys.
Councils say the figures are small compared to the value these hundreds of visits provide – supporting local businesses and charities.
But new figures provided to the Taxpayers’ Alliance under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws show the combined costs of providing cars to Lancashire’s mayors over the last three years topped £250,000.
Most councils that responded to the questions lease a car that is used by their mayor. Modes leased include a Jaguar XJ Executive, Audi A8 and a Hyundai i30.
The two highest spending councils paid more than £10,000 a year on chauffeurs for their mayors.
A the lower end of the scale, Preston City Council, which sold its mayoral car during the three-year period in question, spent £7,270.
Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “The numbers demonstrate that we are doing a good job at keeping costs low.
“We expect this amount decrease further as we have now sold the mayoral car and made other changes to the service to cut costs.”
A spokesman for Lancaster City Council, which spent £44,199 on a chauffeur service over the three years, said: “The position of mayor is a very important one for the community and every year they and their deputy attend hundreds of events, helping to promote community organisations, support local businesses and raise thousands of pounds for local charities.
“The mayor, and the civic regalia that is part and parcel of the position, require transport to and from these events, many of which take place late into the evening or early in the morning.
“In 2013 the council decided that rather than buying or leasing a mayoral car, it would instead contract a car and driver service, as this would be a more cost effective option in the long term.”
Chorley Council spent £15,530 on its mayoral car, which it leases.
Deputy leader Coun Peter Wilson said: “The mayor’s car is chosen to ensure it is within the budget set aside by the council and the annual lease cost of the mayor’s car has not increased for the past 3 years.
“When procuring a car lease we do also look to choose a company that manufactures cars in this country.
“As with all our services, the role is constantly under review to make efficiencies and cost savings to ensure it continues to offer value for money for local tax payers.”
Two councils did not respond to the FOI requests.
Wyre Council topped the list, with costs over the three years from 2015 to 2018 coming in at £53,515.
In response to the figures, a council spokesman said: “The council uses a lower cost chauffeur service for the mayor’s car rather than purchasing a car outright as this provides a better value for money service over the longer term.”
The council also said if other authorities bought their mayoral cars outright before 2015, the figures would not show up in the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s findings, meaning Wyre’s spend would look higher.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing local authorities say they have no money left when there are still instances of excessive spending.
“Some travel will of course be necessary to conduct duties but ... every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections.”
Meanwhile, Blackpool Council’s spend over the three years was £15,162. The figure includes maintenance and fuel but no costs relating to either the purchase or lease of vehicles.
The average across Lancashire councils was £21,770.
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “The Mayoral role is relatively low cost when you consider what is involved and represents value for money as the Mayor attends hundreds of events, promoting local businesses and raising thousands of pounds for local charities.”
Meanwhile, Fylde Council’s bill came in at £31,410 according to the Taxpayer’s Alliance – although this included the cost of purchasing a Volvo S80 in 2015.
The council’s chief executive Allan Oldfield said the cost of the car – which had a price tag of £21, 890 – works out at £3,127 a year over a seven-year period.
He said: “‘A comprehensive options appraisal is carried out whenever the Mayoral car is renewed with both lease and purchase options considered.
“In October 2015, from the open tender quotations received the best option was to purchase the car, the cost of purchase is spread over 7 years in line with the CIPFA code of accounting.
“Tax payers can be assured that the council will always seek to deliver best value for every penny spent on their behalf.”
With the cost of the purchase spread out over the full seven years, the annual cost of providing the car was around £6,500 a year, he added.