Leeds City Council ‘gas guzzler’ mileage rate faces the axe

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Council staff in Leeds could face a big cut in mileage expenses to help pay for park and ride schemes.

The council currently allows claims of up to 65p a mile for some workers who use their own vehicles for business purposes.

Liberal Democrat councillors are proposing that mileage rates are capped at a maximum of 45p – a move they claim would save the authority nearly £500,000.

They say that sum could be used to fund borrowing of up to £5m to pay for the creation of park and ride sites around the city.

The rate cut is one of a series of budget amendments put forward by the Lib Dems to be discussed by the council on Wednesday.

Coun Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “The Government uses a recommended rate of 45p for tax purposes. However the council allows payments of up to 65p per mile for gas guzzler type cars.

“If the council cuts its maximum payment back to 45p per mile this will save nearly £500,000. That money could be used to invest in park and ride schemes across the city, which will combat congestion and reduce costs for motorists.”

The city’s proposed trolleybus scheme includes park and ride and Coun Ryk Downes, leader of the Lib Dem Group on Metro, West Yorkshire’s Integrated Transport Authority, said: “While we all hope that government will finally go ahead with the scheme Leeds can’t afford to just sit back and wait. We’ve been doing that for too many years.

“Metro has plans for Park and Ride sites around the edge of the city. Putting savings from reducing payments for car travel towards developing park and ride is a sensible and rapid way forward in introducing more park and ride schemes for Leeds.”

Figures published last year revealed that local authorities across Yorkshire paid out a total of nearly £25m in mileage expenses in 2010-11.

The 65p rate has been criticised by local government minister Bob Neil as “preferential and privileged.”

The Lib Dems’ proposal comes in the week the council prepares to give the go ahead to swingeing spending cuts for the second year running as it battles to cope with government grant cuts and other spending pressures.

Council bosses are looking to save £55m in 2012-13 and among the measures planned are up to 400 job losses, grant reductions to arts organisations, a pilot of fortnightly black bin collections, meals-on-wheels price rises and a rise in junior swim prices.