Leeds City Council fuel costs fears EXCLUSIVE

Leeds City Council driver Terry Hunter fills up his recycling lorry.

Leeds City Council driver Terry Hunter fills up his recycling lorry.

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soaring fuel bills will cost Leeds City Council and the city’s police, ambulance and fire fleets millions extra to stay on the road.

They are all bracing themselves for a new financial year in which they will also have to save millions to meet Government cuts.

West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and Yorkshire Ambulance services have all seen their fuel bills soar over the last 12 months. Together with Leeds City Council they are now attempting to budget for future fuel costs.

This has already proved difficult for Yorkshire Ambulance that forecasts it will have overspent on its £5.1m 2910/11 budget by £1.2m come April 6.

While it admitted that high fuel costs have “clearly” had an effect on its organisation, a spokeswoman told the YEP that they are unable to indicate what the spend will be in 2011/12.

She said increased oil prices would not affect patient care.

It is projected that fuel will cost Leeds City Council an extra £400,000 in 11/12. The budget for 2010/11 was £4.1m and the authority has spent £3.9m to date.

There have been savings with the introduction of alternative fuels and electric hybrid vehicles.

Leeds City Council has taken a step forward in pioneering green methods for collecting waste by becoming the first local authority to have its own biomethane fuel station.

Coun Tom Murray, executive member for environmental services said: “This is a very exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of green technology while also realising real savings. Having this permanent biomethane fuel station in Leeds opens up all kinds of possibilities for future green improvements.”

But the impact of increased fuel costs have been felt “very heavily” in particular within environment and neighbourhoods such as Streetscene that runs the city’s bin wagons.

A spokeswoman said: “We use 2.3 million litres of fuel every year within Streetscene services – much higher than any other council service.

“Our refuse collection and street cleansing vehicles are being used for up to 10 hours a day and for six or seven days a week, so it is unsurprising that our fuel usage is high.

“To help us reduce fuel costs in the long term we are piloting the use of bio-methane vehicles within Streetscene services, which is not only more cost effective, but also better for the environment.”

West Yorkshire Fire revealed that it has set aside an extra £54,500 for its fuel budget, which has gone from £425,000 in 2010/11 to £480,000 in 2011/12.

West Yorkshire Police said that “on-going political and international issues” made it impossible to forecast usage for 2011/12.

However, in financial year 2009/10 they spent £2,898,455 on 3,171,378 litres of fuel, covering 19,355,195 miles. That figure rose in 2010/11 to £3,139,000, and as of February 28 this year the fleet had covered 18,957,857 miles.

The force is looking to increase the number of vehicles fuelled by diesel to make savings.

All the services said they bought fuel in bulk at a reduced rate with their fleet filling up at from private reserves where possible.

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