Half of councils in Northamptonshire are still paying more than the approved mileage rate to employees who use their own cars for business purposes – although the total amount paid out has fallen from last year.
Research by the Taxpayers Alliance has found that, nationally, local authorities made £223m in mileage allowance payments to their employees in 2016-17, down from £231m in 2015-16.
In Northamptonshire, the following councils all paid a rate of 65p a mile for casual car users with vehicles of 1,200cc engines or above – Corby, Daventry, Kettering and Wellingborough.
The HMRC recommended rate is 45p a mile, which East Northants, Northampton and the county council all pay.
Corby Council paid a total of £63,350 in mileage expenses during 2016/17, down from £74,785 the 12 months before.
The total spend at Daventry was down from £37,863 to £30,769, and in Kettering it was down from £103,418 to £93,439.
Wellingborough Council paid a total of £44,337, down from £50,755 in 2015/16.
East Northamptonshire spent £116,655 in the past financial year, down from £119,445, while Northampton’s spend was down from £56,018 to £49,041.
The only council to have seen an increase in the total amount it has paid out in mileage expenses is the county council, where the bill rose from £1,334,869 to £1,452,817.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “While the total amount claimed in mileage increased between 2015/16 and 2016/17, with the move to the council’s new headquarters in Angel Square, it is expected that this will now decrease.
“The majority of Northampton-based staff moved into one building which means that there is less travel involved between sites for meetings.
“Additionally, pool cars have been introduced to enable travel to off-site meetings to take place without the need for making mileage claims.”
A Daventry Council spokesman said: “We have made considerable savings since introducing a pool car scheme for casual car users in February 2016.
“Under the scheme, casual car users have use of either a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle or a hybrid-electric Mitsubishi Outlander when they are required to travel for work.
“Casual car users can only claim mileage for using their own vehicle when both of the pool cars are in use.
“As well as helping us the council make a financial saving, this also helps in our drive to reduce carbon emissions.”
A Wellingborough Council spokesman said: “The rates we pay are in accordance with the National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service of the National Joint Council for Local Government Services.
“The rates reflect the fact that an officer uses their own car, so they aim to compensate for petrol, wear and tear and business user insurance costs.
“Some local authorities have chosen to negotiate local agreements to pay alternative rates, but we have not.
“The council have reviewed this position as part of organisational changes made since our restructure in 2011, and an overall review of terms and conditions of employment.
“However, any change to the rate would have to be negotiated at a local level, and given the small size of our organisation, plus the costs associated with these payments (and the council’s stance of not wishing to erode the nationally negotiated terms and conditions) a change was not pursued.
“We have a policy and process to determine who should, because of the needs of their role, be eligible to receive essential user rates, which are lower than the casual user rates listed in this research.
“All other employees are casual users as the level/demand for use of a vehicle is insufficient to attract the essential user status.”
A Kettering Council statement said: “Kettering Council pays the mileage rate agreed centrally by the National Joint Council for Local Government staff. The rates have stayed the same since 2010.”
A Corby Council statement said: “Corby Council pays in line with the nationally agreed NJC (National Joint Council) rates.
“We do however provide an electric pool car for employees and the mayor to use for business which encourages car sharing and ensures we are keeping our mileage costs down.”
Cllr Phil Bignell, deputy leader of South Northamptonshire Council and portfolio holder for ICT, HR and Governance, said: “The casual driver mileage rate for SNC staff is 52.2p. Essential users, those travelling more than 2,500 business miles per annum, are paid 40.9p per mile and an allowance of £1,022.44 per annum.
“As part of modernisation local authorities are tending to move away from nationally agreed terms and conditions for local government and towards paying HMRC rates for business miles. SNC will be reviewing its mileage policy in 2018.”