Friday, 2 September 2011

Council breaking own guidelines on cars for top officers

Cornwall Council is breaking its own guidelines by providing senior officers with personal cars despite those officers only doing very limited business mileage each year. Details released to the Liberal Democrats show that only one of the six top officers provided with personal council cars uses it for more than the 20,000 business miles per year guideline that applies to more junior officers.

In addition, two senior officers in the fire and rescue service have been provided with 'executive luxury cars' costing around £30,000 each.

We are concerned that Cornwall Council is wasting money providing perks to senior officers at a time when more junior staff are being made redundant. These figures show that Cornwall Council appears to be breaching its own guidelines on who should be provided with a car.

There are many staff who drive tens of thousands of miles per year providing services to the public. In an area like Cornwall, it is impossible to provide decent services without racking up the miles. Much of this work is done using pool cars and some officers who do more than 20,000 miles per year on council business are given their own 'take home' council vehicle.

But this 20,000 guideline doesn't seem to apply when it comes to some of the top officers. Of the six staff members at head of service level or above who have council cars, only one exceeded the 20,000 mile limit last year. It's not as if the remainder fell just short. None of them drove more than one third of the 20k threshold last year, yet they kept their company car when it could have been reallocated to another officer saving the council the money it would have cost to buy yet another new vehicle.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service thought it appropriate to buy new luxury cars for two of its top officers. Whilst more junior staff in that service make do with Vauxhalls which cost £16,367 each, the top brass are driving a brand new Audi A5 (cost to the authority £30,465) and A6 (cost to the authority £28,714).

The Audi A5 is described by a leading reviewer in the following terms: "Coupes don't come much classier than the Audi A5. It's more a grand tourer than an out-and-out sports car, but none the worse for that."

The same reviewer describes the Audi A6 as: "An impressively well-rounded executive saloon.

At a time when local residents are seeing well used front line services disappear in Cornwall Council cuts, it is plain wrong for the authority to be providing take home cars for top brass who do few miles a year on council business or luxury Audis when cheaper cars would do the job.

UPDATE - Cornwall Council is apparently responding by saying that there is no '20,000 guideline' for whether officers get a car and that the fire service Audis were bought at a discount.

Hmmm.

On the first count, why on the 23rd August did the Assistant Chief Exec say on Radio Cornwall that there is such a guideline? And are the Council really claiming that driving just 6,000 business miles a year is enough to justify being given an £18,000 car at taxpayers' expense? If that were so, then most councillors would justify receiving such cars too (and no, I'm not advocating that).

On the second count, it really doesn't matter what discount was received, these are still cars that cost almost twice as much as the more junior officers (who do more than 20k miles a year) cars. They are luxury cars and the extra spending is a waste.

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