Sunderland council chiefs choose hybrid as new car for mayor and senior councillors - Conservatives raise eyebrows over £6,000-per-year cost

Council bosses are planning to lease an eco-friendly car for the mayor and senior councillors as part of a drive to slash carbon emissions.

Saturday, 15th February 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 16th February 2020, 6:32 pm

Sunderland City Council joined other North East authorities in declaring a ‘climate emergency’ in response to climate change concerns in 2019, including a target of the council becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.

City leaders are planning to replace one of their civic vehicles with a Volvo S90 plug-in hybrid to reduce their carbon footprint.

Hybrid cars contain both an electric motor and a standard engine which kicks in once charge is depleted.

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Council bosses confirmed the car will be leased with a £6,000 per year budget in place.

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller, said the use of council cars reflects Sunderland’s role as a “big and busy local authority” with hundreds of civic events and meetings every year.

“This is substantially more cost-effective than buying a new vehicle as the council is working towards being carbon-neutral by 2030 and is therefore looking at environmentally sustainable options for all of its vehicle fleet,” he said.

“Our targets for making Sunderland carbon neutral are 20 years ahead of the Government’s targets and the civic car is no exception.

“The car will primarily be used by the mayoral team and for the use of visiting dignitaries, businesses and stand as a reserve for when one of the other cars is in for a service for example.

“This Volvo S90 model was selected following consideration of appropriate alternatives and based on the type of vehicle needed for use by the Mayoral team and civic guests.”

Council cars are predominantly chauffeur-driven and available for senior councillors and officers for official business when considered the “most expedient method of transport.”

This includes civic events which take place at times and venues where there is limited public transport or parking availability.

Plans for the plug-in hybrid car were revealed after a written question from Conservative group leader, Robert Oliver, at a council meeting.

The opposition councillor aid: “Sunderland Conservatives oppose the lease of a very expensive new car for the use of only a few councillors from the Labour Group at a time when vital services are being squeezed.

“This vehicle will be paid for by the taxpayer but for use primarily by the Mayor and the leader of the council who already have other vehicles at their service and could, of course, fund their own transport.”

Council leader, Graeme Miller responded: “I and other councillors do use our own cars, I, for instance, use my car for the vast majority of the meetings that I clock up as leader of the council, some 5,000 miles per year on average,” he said.

“I pay for my own diesel and do not claim any mileage, so of course fund my own transport at no extra cost to the Sunderland taxpayer whatsoever.”

He added: “Perhaps Coun Oliver would also like to ask his national leader Mr Johnson if he is going to give up his vehicle and travel to all appointments by Boris bike?”