By Paul Christian, Chief Reporter
Monday, November 5, 2012
COUNTY Hall chiefs have been savaged after it emerged nearly £7million has been spent on travel expenses over two years - with just 0.28 per cent of that spent on public transport.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that between September 2010 and September 2012, Herts County Council paid £6,891,690 on transport for staff and politicians.
Of that total, just £19,082 was spent on public transport - prompting the fury of opposition councillors.
Green Party councillor Ian Brandon fumed: “The figures suggest not enough is being done to encourage public transport by staff.
“It further shows that better public transport links within Hertfordshire especially cross county need to be promoted,” he said.
“All my expense claims have been via public transport. It would be interesting who is setting a bad example.”
And Cllr Malcolm Cowan, who sits on both the county council and Welwyn Hatfield Council said he was considering launching a formal probe into the figures.
The Lib Dem told the WHT: “It is alarming that so little use is made of public transport.
“It sends out entirely the wrong message about how committed the council actually is to improving public transport if they use it so little.
“It is understandable that going to a school or an elderly or vulnerable person may require use of a car, but we know that council staff attend a very large number of conferences - surely many of these are served by public transport, or are within a short taxi ride of a station?”
He added: “I shall be discussing with colleagues whether to call this in for scrutiny, to see what is happening and how we can change travel modes.”
Responding to the figures the council’s resources chief, councillor David Lloyd, said: “We are committed to reducing the environmental and financial impacts of our business travel by looking at ways to reduce miles travelled, identifying methods of transport with lower carbon emissions per mile and reducing business travel costs.”
Asked whether he thought travel expenses of £6,891,690 was an acceptable figure over two years, Cllr Lloyd said: “This large figure reflects the number employed by the county council [10,217 people] not profligacy.”
And he claimed: “I think that we compare well with other organisations although we always seek ways to reduce our costs.”
He added: “While we encourage employees to reduce travel expenses through methods such as teleconferencing or car sharing, there are some areas, such as social work, where travelling around the county, the country and occasionally abroad is an essential part of the job.”