Council slashes budget

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WIGAN Council has slashed its spending on travel by public transport by a quarter as the authority looks to save millions from its budget.

And in the latest measure to reduce travel costs, councillors have now been banned from claiming mileage for trips less than 10 miles.

Instead, councillors’ allowances will be expected to cover the cost of short, every-day journeys under the Members’ Allowances Scheme.

It comes after the authority’s deficit ended up being more than £23.7m at the end of the financial year - almost £17m bigger than thought.

The council’s spending on public transport travel fell to £231,000 at the end of 2010/11 - compared with £308,000 in the previous year.

The authority says the reduction is the result of restricting first class travel, reduced staff numbers and transport costs being more closely scrutinised.

Andrew Taylor, Wigan Council’s head of finance, said: “The Independent Member Remuneration Panel has set allowances which are being adopted across local government and they recently noted that there are limited mileage claims for working within the council area because the distances are so minimal.

“In fact, many other councils have stopped members claiming mileage within their council boundaries, including Manchester, Tameside and Trafford – because processing a mileage claim can cost more than is reimbursed.

“To stop this issue happening here, the panel has decided to impose a minimum number of miles to become eligible for a mileage claim.

“With train travel, it’s always best when we can book on behalf of staff in advance, so we can get the best prices. We have found that, on occasion, deals from the train companies can mean first class travel can be cheaper than standard.”

Leader of the opposition, Coun Gary Wilkes said: “Very few councillors - around a third - actually claim mileage. But we are paid enough for this cost to be covered by our allowance. I believe councillors should only claim mileage for business outside the borough.”