AMBULANCE bosses are cutting services to the bone and patients have been taken to hospital by fire engines – but managers are driving around in luxury taxpayer-funded cars costing almost £2m.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed the company car list for the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) staff includes 26 Range Rover Evoques – with prices starting at £40,000, 22 BMWs and 34 Audis.
In total 195 members of staff have a company car at NWAS and in the past two years the Trust has had lease contracts to a value of £1,922,444.
Staff have paid contributions totalling £399,309 - meaning the Trust has spent £1,523,135 on the leases.
It comes at a time when the Trust is trying to make £14m of savings.
Critics say ‘wasteful spending’ needs to be cut out and argue the Trust could use cheaper alternative vehicles. Today the Ambulance Service, which employs 4,973 staff, defended the vehicles saying their lease policy is allocated based on miles and a number of them have blue lights and sirens fitted.
A North West Ambulance spokesman said: “The Trust does operate a lease car policy and confirms that vehicles are allocated to individuals who amass a certain number of business miles in 12 months.
“The Trust is committed to its responsibilities as a ‘corporate citizen’ and as such also endeavours to reduce emissions and eliminate unnecessary business mileage. The Trust operates throughout the North West of England, covering 5,400 square miles, and many of our senior managers work operational shifts or are on-call managers for serious and major incidents.
“Therefore many of the lease vehicles are classed as part of the overall operational fleet and have blue lights and sirens fitted.
“We recognise that lease vehicles will be required for private use as well as business use, so staff have a degree of choice of vehicle, although it is imperative that the types of vehicles procured through the scheme are compatible with a public sector organisation.
“The scheme stipulates that all vehicles must have four doors and four full size seats, are not high performance vehicles and C0² emissions must be 130 or below and have a minimum 50 mpg fuel economy on published combined cycle rates
“All eligible staff receive an allowance of £2,800 based on annual mileage of 12,000 (3,500 business miles and 8,500 private miles). Executive post holders receive an allowance of £4,800.
“Lease cars are provided on the basis that this is a more efficient way of managing travel costs in comparison to reimbursing an individual for business mileage and wear and tear on privately owned vehicles.”
Problems at NWAS came to a head this summer when driver Saira Khalid had to be ferried to hospital on a spinal board in the back of a fire engine after being cut from the wreckage of her car, when paramedics didn’t show.
Two days later, a couple injured in a house fire also went to A&E in a fire engine because they couldn’t get an ambulance.
And in the same month it was claimed whole towns were left with just one local paramedic to cover a busy Saturday night after ambulance staff rang in sick.
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the Tax Payers Alliance said: “Every penny of taxpayers’ money has to deliver value for money.
“It’s perfectly reasonably for some NHS employees to have lease cars, but there’s no reason they have to be expensive, top-of-the-range models when cheaper alternatives would do the job just as well.
“We have to cut out wasteful spending in the health service if it’s to be financially sustainable in the long-term.”