CRITICISM has been aimed at Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] for overpaying its staff by almost 50 per cent for petrol allowances.
It is one of four local authorities across Kent – along with Sevenoaks, Shepway and Ashford – that have been providing expenses of 65p per mile. The official rate suggested by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [HMRC] is 45p per mile.
Last year, the decision to pay above the recommended rate cost the council, which means the taxpayers across the borough, more than £20,000 in extra expenses.
The revelation comes despite TMBC facing a budget deficit of £1.6million, which it says is leaving its provision of essential services severely stretched.
The data has come to light from a survey of all councils in the UK conducted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a campaigning group ‘dedicated to reforming taxes, cutting spending and protecting taxpayers’.
‘It’s simply not credible for councils to plead poverty and raise council tax while paying excessive mileage rates’
The Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, John O’Connell, said: “Driving is extremely expensive in Britain thanks to sky-high rates of fuel and vehicle excise duties.
“But there’s no excuse for councils to pay over the odds. No local authority should be paying more than HMRC’s approved rate.
“It’s simply not credible for councils to plead poverty and raise council tax while paying excessive mileage rates, especially when the government has told councils to rein in these payments for the past five years.”
HMRC’s guidelines state that employers can choose to pay above the approved rate, but they ‘must add anything above the ‘approved amount’ to employee’s pay, and deduct and pay tax as normal’.
A TMBC spokesperson told the Times: “It is correct that some staff who are not normally required to use their vehicle as part of their employment, and do not receive any other form of payment for the use of their car, can claim their mileage at 65p per mile if they are required to use their car for work purposes.”
The council differentiates contractually between casual car users and essential car users – the latter are paid a lump sum instead of a rate per mile.
“Employees whose contract of employment states they are eligible to claim a ‘casual car user allowance’ for the ad hoc mileage that they undertake on behalf of the council on infrequent occasions are reimbursed according to the nationally determined ‘casual car user allowance’ prevailing at the time,” added the spokesperson.
A TMBC employee is more than £50 better off after travelling 250 miles than his or her neighbouring colleagues
While almost one in four councils (38 per cent) paid above the approved rate in 2016-17, the average national rate was still only 48.92p
This means that a TMBC employee is more than £50 better off after travelling 250 miles than his or her neighbouring colleagues.
The total mileage claim for TMBC employees was £71,153, which is a significant reduction on the previous year’s figure of £76,119.
The figures show that coun-cil employees travelled a total of 109,466 miles. If they had been given the standard rate, the authority’s bill would have come to £49,260.
Thanet District Council has only been paying 18.74p per mile. Despite its 65p rate, Ashford only paid out £14,460 in 2016-17 – the -second lowest sum across the county’s 11 councils (Maidstone declined to give a figure).