Sunderland Council has spent Â£42,000 on cars for mayors since 2015
City hall bosses have defended the cost of providing cars for the mayor and other council leaders.
Figures released by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) showed Sunderland City Council has spent £42,258 providing mayoral transport since 2015.
More than £40,000 of this went on leasing two Volvo S80s and a Nissan Leaf, which was later replaced by an Infiniti Q30.
The remaining money was swallowed by insurance bills, but the council did not reveal the cost of fuel, meaning the final expenditure could be much higher.
The TPA accused mayors across the country of carrying out ‘generally mundane and little cared-for functions’ and called on them to pay for travel from their own pockets.
But Sunderland’s cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, hit back, saying: “This is another prime example of the TaxPayers’ Alliance being able to highlight costs, but with no real idea of their true value to local communities.
“I am sure the many people the Mayor meets at events and functions will be shocked to hear them being described by the alliance as ‘generally mundane and little cared-for functions’.
“The alliance also fail to recognise the significant work the mayoralty does in raising thousands of pounds for good causes in our city at many events.”
Sunderland’s current mayor, Lynda Scanlan, was elected to the council in 2011 and took up her chain of office in May.
The research by the TPA found 207 UK councils spent a total of £4,513,607 providing vehicles for ‘mayors, lord mayors, lord provosts, chairmen and women’.
According to this, Sunderland had the highest recorded spend in the North East, although it lacked the luxury on offer at other local authorities.
North Tyneside Council has a Jaguar, while three others - Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, and Kensington and Chelsea - have Bentleys.
Since 2015 Durham County Council (DCC) has spent £37,392 leasing two Skoda Superbs, although it got rid of one of them in 2016/17.
The model can be bought new from about £21,000.
A DCC spokesman said the cost of leasing the vehicles, which included maintenance, could not be compared to purchase.
Adrian White, the county council’s head of transport and contract services, said: “In common with many councils across the country, we believe it is appropriate that our chairman/mayor and vice-chairman are transported to events at which they are representing the authority.
“Following the expiry of contract hire agreements in 2016/7, we moved from two lease vehicles to one and this has contributed to a reduction in expenditure over the last three years.”
TPA chief executive John O’Connell said: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing local authorities say they have no money left when there are still instances of excessive spending.
“Some travel will of course be necessary to conduct duties but families who struggle to pay their council tax bill will roll their eyes at the thought of their hard-earned money being spent on Bentleys and Jaguars for politicians to attend functions.
“40% of councils didn’t lease or buy cars, so all other local authorities should follow that example and encourage civic leaders to use cheaper forms of transport.
“Every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections.”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service