Northern Ireland news

Belfast council spends almost £400,000 on staff mileage claims in three years

Traffic on Donegal Street in Belfast city centre. Picture by Declan Roughan
Brendan Hughes

BELFAST City Council has spent almost £400,000 paying staff mileage claims in the past three years.

A total of £383,271.24 was spent on paying mileage between 2016/17 and 2018/19 so far for people deemed 'essential' car users.

The figures were obtained by Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, who has been calling on the council to reduce its carbon footprint.

The council has 273 'essential' car users, categorised as those in senior roles or whose duties require a car at their disposal when required.

Mileage payments totalled £148,502.87 in 2016/17, £131,744.50 in 2017/18 and £103,023.87 in 2018/19 so far.

In 2017/18, Belfast councillors also claimed £11,410 in mileage expenses.

Mr McDonough-Brown, the council's deputy lord mayor, said he wants the local authority to "drive down its carbon emissions right across the organisation".

On Monday he put a motion to council calling for the body to prepare a report establishing its carbon footprint and recommending steps to reduce it.

"We know that climate change is serious, we know that it is man-made, and we know that we have to take action," he said.

"Belfast City Council spends a significant amount on motor mileage for 'essential' car use with all the environmental harm we know private transport creates.

"Through the Belfast Agenda we are committed to increasing the use of sustainable transport in the city.

"Therefore, we must lead by example and consider how better the council can support a healthier environment.

"I want Belfast City Council to drive down its carbon emissions right across the organisation and the first step towards that is to establish our carbon footprint before taking steps to reduce it."

Jonathan Hobbs, a cycling enthusiast and editor of Bikefast.org, said: "The council's 'Belfast Agenda' document aims to improve air quality and increase the percentage of all journeys which are made by walking, cycling or public transport.

"Given that vision, maintaining a pool of hundreds of 'essential' car users, especially linked to higher grades where it's likely to be viewed as a job benefit, is badly outdated.

"This is a small city and council area. How many car journeys in Belfast are actually quicker and more convenient by Glider, Metro or the council's own Belfast Bikes system?

"Here's a great opportunity for the council to reflect inward and show leadership by example on rebalancing our city's transport."

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