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Highland Council looking to cut mileage claims

By Louise Glen

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HIGHLAND councillors are being challenged to identify ways to reduce their mileage claims.

Last year a total of £147,046.35 was reimbursed to councillors claiming money for mileage.

Seventeen councillors did not make any claims for mileage and the rest was split between 58 of their colleagues.

Councillor John Finlayson (Eilean a’ Cheò) claimed the most mileage – £8084.70.

Councillors continue to drive across the region, raking up the equivalent of 327,497 miles as they attend meetings.

At a meeting of the local authority’s corporate governance committee, chief executive Donna Manson noted the situation and said she was looking for a “robust response” from councillors.

She went on: “Officers’ travel continues to decline, and members’ travel is increasing,” she said.

Announcing £500,000 savings from officers’ travel, Mrs Manson said the council’s weekly governance board was continuing to look at the situation.

She continued: “We are monitoring this month by month. We are looking at travel line by line, and we are seeking to overachieve in this area.”

The local authority recently announced that it had shaved more than 825,000 miles from its annual staffing mileage bill.

Since introducing the Enterprise Car Club, the local authority has reduced its annual business mileage by 15 per cent in overall business travel costs.

One member who is challenging his colleagues to take mileage savings seriously is Councillor Raymond Bremner, who is based in Thrumster near Wick.

He would need to travel 200 miles, costing £89 to the taxpayer, for every meeting he attends in Inverness.

He said: “Donna Manson challenged us to start doing things differently at a meeting of the corporate resources board.

“It seems incredible that we are asking staff to do something, when councillors themselves are not doing anything. Something will have to change.

“We all have the ability to reduce our council mileage by using public transport or sharing lifts.

“We need to encourage members to reduce their mileage by setting targets.”

Cllr Bremner said he had started to use the train to travel to Inverness for meetings.

The cost difference is £72. A train ticket costs £17 with a rail card.

He said too few members were making use of the video conferencing facilities that allow members to attend meetings remotely.

Councillors claimed more than £200,000 in expenses last year.

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