East Cambridgeshire Council paying 'over the odds' for filling up cars

East Cambridgeshire District Council have been paying staff 65p per mile, far above the government's recommended 45p per mile.
East Cambridgeshire District Council have been paying staff 65p per mile, far above the government's recommended 45p per mile.

A council is wasting thousands of pounds by paying more than the approved mileage rate to staff who use their cars for work, according to a report.

An investigation has revealed that East Cambridgeshire District Council is one of 173 across the country which are paying more mileage than the rate approved by HM Revenue and Customs.

That rate for cars and vans is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p thereafter. This is the amount an employee can receive without paying tax.

But an investigation by the Taxpayers’ Alliance found that East Cambridgeshire was one of 73 authorities which had paid 65p a mile in 2016/17, the same amount it had been paying the previous year. The total cost to taxpayers over the two years had been £136,939.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Driving is extremely expensive in Britain thanks to sky-high rates of fuel and vehicle excise duties, but there’s no excuse for councils to pay over the odds.

“It’s simply not credible for councils to plead poverty and raise Council Tax while paying excessive mileage rates, especially when the government has told councils to rein in these payments for the past five years.

“No local authority should be paying more than HMRC’s approved rate.”

The alliance said the average council mileage rate was 48.92p.

Jo Brooks, Operations Director for East Cambridgeshire, said: "ECDC has always strategically saved and invested money to make sure we squeeze every penny from the pound. Our aim to uphold a balanced budget and provide quality service for our residents continues into 2017 and this has meant that this will be the fourth year in a row we have frozen council tax.

"Out balanced budget has also allowed us to maintain the position of paying the current allowance for business travel to larger vehicles. This rate was based on National Joint Council For Local Government mileage guidance."

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said the average figures used by the Taxpayers’ Alliance were ‘misleading’ because they failed to distinguish between urban and rural councils but a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Authorities ought not to be paying more than the recommended HMRC levels.”