Hundreds overpaid in Hull council blunder on car use

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HUNDREDS of council staff have been overpaid as much as £1,200 a year to use their cars for work as a result of management failings, a senior councillor has admitted.

Hull councillor Phil Webster blasted what he described as a “serious failing of the council to enforce who was entitled to essential car use”.

The payment of the allowance of between £850 and £1,200 to over 500 workers - which costs the taxpayer around £500,000 - has come under the spotlight during negotiations with the trade unions over terms and conditions.

The council, which is facing “unprecedented” cuts, aims to save £2.8m from the review.

Coun Webster said the number of workers paid the allowance would be cut to just 77.

He said: “People were just getting it if they said they needed a car for work.

“I think that it (the allowance) has been misused, but that is not the failing of the unions. It has been the failing of management over the years. It is a scheme that has been abused.”

In future people would only be paid the allowance if they were driving more than 3,000 miles a year, he said, like “social workers that actually need the cars”.

“Historically what has been happening is that people would be essential car users and they would be moved to another job and it was never taken off them,” he added

The administration is also intent on reducing mileage allowance – which goes up to 65p a mile for staff who use their own cars for work – with 45p across the board, in line with the standard HM Revenue & Customs rate.

A review of terms and conditions has been a key priority for the Labour leadership, which argues that it is necessary to protect jobs at the cash-strapped council.

It is one of several reviews taking place at the council which needs to save £30m to £40m in 2014 to 2016. The authority axed 1,000 jobs in 2011 and is shedding up to 240 more in its business support section.

Council leader Steve Brady said they expected to introduce changes to terms and conditions, including mileage rates and overtime rates, from this autumn: “There is absolutely no doubt that the mileage rates is going to change – it has to.

“The half year savings is from October 1 and we would expect that to be fully in place.

“Everybody who works shift payments is entitled to shift payments, it is the same in private industry, but what we can’t do any longer is pay evening overtime rates when people are within their contractual hours.”

According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the average rate paid out by councils across the UK was 56.4p in 2010-11 – well above the HMRC-approved level at the time of 40p – meaning that a typical council worker would have ended up £164 better off for every 1,000 miles driven.

Andrew Allison from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Labour has been saying for over two years that they would investigate this and only now it has been revealed that some £400,000 of taxpayers’ money has been wasted by paying staff an allowance which they should never have received.

“It proves that money is still being wasted that expenditure can be reduced without it necessarily affecting front-line services.

“At least the ruling group have been candid about it and taxpayers can be confident that these oversights are being addressed.”

Meanwhile a consultation on the future of its 21 children centres across the city will continue until August 2.

Hull Council says it wants as much feedback as possible. Information is available at www.hullcc.gov.uk/consultations, in Children’s Centres, at Customer Service Centres, or on 01482 300 300.