A TORY councillor has hit out after Sunderland City Council increased its budget for chauffeur-driven vehicles while the rest of the authority faces sweeping cuts.
The cost of leasing four vehicles, used predominantly as chauffeur-driven cars, has increased from £19,614 in 2012/13, to £21,500 in 2013/14.
Coun Robert Oliver said: “I think it’s a surprise that the budget for chauffeur driven vehicles has increased when all the other budgets are having to be reduced.
“There is a need for some transport, especially for the Mayor, but I’m concerned about the amount of money being spent and how much use is being made of each of the four vehicles.
“It is a surprise – four vehicles permanently on lease when we’ve got a very good transport network within the city anyway and when everything is being cut back. We’ve got to reduce the deficit.”
The vehicles include the Mayor’s car, a people carrier and two other cars. In an email to Coun Oliver, the council’s head of financial resources confirmed the figures do not include drivers’ costs.
Coun Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “These vehicles, which include the Mayor’s car, are used for many hundreds of official civic events and meetings across the city and the wider North East region.
“Some civic events may be at times and venues where there is limited public transport facilities.
“One of the vehicles is a people carrier and so it allows several councillors to conveniently and cost-effectively travel together.
“These vehicles are also used for other purposes such as deliveries and the vehicle budget reflects this variety of civic duties and Sunderland’s role as a big and busy local authority.”