Row over £5,500+ a year cost of Sunderland City Council cars

A war of words has broken out over Sunderland City Council’s expenditure on transport.

The city’s Conservative opposition has accused council bosses of hypocrisy after an investigation revealed the authority spends more than £5,500 a year on cars for senior councillors and officers.

The Tories say a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by low tax pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance shows the council spends more on its mayoral and executive cars than any other council in the North East.

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The FOI results revealed that since 2018, Sunderland City Council has spent £39,843 on leasing two Volvo S90s, £4,066 on fuel and £3,625 on fleet maintenance. The leasing cost per year is £5,560.56.

Conservative Leader Coun Antony Mullen accused the Labour-led authority of paying lip service to environmental concerns.

"Our Council's leadership has cancelled the Air Show on environmental grounds but hasn't practised what it has preaches when it comes to their own chauffeur-driven cars,” he said

"It is not acceptable that residents are asked to make sacrifices to help the Council achieve net zero if ruling Labour councillors are not also willing to do the same.

"The Conservative Group has submitted a motion to January's meeting of the Council which will end the use of these vehicles and promote public transport and active travel instead."

A row has broken out over Sunderland City Council's expenditure on cars
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But Cabinet Secretary Coun Paul Stewart hit back: “I want to make it clear that that this council does not have chauffeur-driven cars but staff whose duties include driving,” he said.

"As one of the largest authorities in the region, these costs reflect the variety and number of necessary functions and meetings that this authority is required to attend and the longer distances and mileage travelled. This includes the distances in Sunderland itself, which is a larger geographical area than some other councils in our region.

"It’s interesting – but not surprising – that the Taxpayers’ Alliance remain silent on the fact Labour run Sunderland Council has the lowest council tax in the North East and a saving for an average household of over £350 per year on Conservative Northumberland.”

City Council cabinet secretary Coun Paul Stewart (left) has clashed with Tory leader Coun Antony Mullem
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And he accused the Conservatives of being hypocritical over green issues: “The opposition had previously sought to cancel air shows in their alternative budgets, and I cannot recall them then making any comment about their interest in low-carbon,” he said.

"Indeed their voting record shows they have consistently opposed funding to support our zero carbon targets - an appalling position to take when our actions will impact on the world we leave for our children and grandchildren.

"I will advise the opposition, too, that if they wish to see more use of public transport, which we would all very much welcome, that they speak to the Government about increasing investment and end the chaos on our privatised railways and busways, where cancellations are routine with absolutely no regard for the public.

“Civic events and meetings are often at times and venues where there is limited public transport facilities and these vehicles are also used for other purposes such as essential deliveries.”