Cost of Wigan Mayor’s car journeys revealed

Wigan Mayor Sue Greensmith
Wigan Mayor Sue Greensmith
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Wigan Council spent £20k on transporting the Mayor to official events in the last three years, it can be revealed.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that £20,000 was chalked up to a contract with a firm which provides chauffeurs to drive the Mayor to many official engagements since 2015.

The data was collected by the Taxpayers Alliance, whose findings revealed that over £4.5m has been spent by local authorities on cars for their mayors, lord mayors, lord provosts and their equivalents in the same three years.

The council’s spending was, however, lower than the average spend of £21,804.

And today, the town hall defended its spending on Mayoral chauffeuring, saying it was a “cost-effective” way of ferrying each incumbent Mayor to hundreds of engagements.

Paul McKevitt, deputy chief executive at Wigan Council, said: “The Mayor of Wigan Borough is a historic role of great importance and today still carries great responsibility. We know through the number of requests we get for the Mayor to attend events across the borough that our residents are really appreciative to have the Mayor at their important occasion.

“Last year’s Mayor Coun Bill Clarke attended 466 official engagements and with that demand it requires support.”

He added: “We have a contract with a provider to offer cost-effective chauffeuring service to the Mayor which includes the use of a suitable car to take the Mayor to help community groups mark their special event with an official visit from the first citizen of the borough.”

Some councils were revealed to have splashed out on luxury vehicles for Mayoral events. Three local authorities, Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East and Kensington and Chelsea, own a Bentley Continental Flying Spur - valued at £132,800.

Other luxury vehicles used by UK councils’ mayors included the Audi A8 (from £69,415), BMW 7 (from £63,040), Jaguar XJ (from £62,360), Mercedes S class (from £70,470) and Lexus RX (from £48,655).

Nine councils even spent taxpayers’ money on personalised number plates for Mayors’ cars.

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing local authorities say they have no money left when there are still instances of excessive spending.

"Some travel will of course be necessary to conduct duties but families who struggle to pay their council tax bill will roll their eyes at the thought of their hard-earned money being spent on Bentleys and Jaguars for politicians to attend functions.”

He added: “Forty per cent of councils didn’t lease or buy cars, so all other local authorities should follow that example and encourage civic leaders to use cheaper forms of transport. Every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections.”