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Revealed: Northern Ireland councils spend on luxury cars in three years

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Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

SKODA SUPERB

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Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

Audi A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO

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BMW 7 SERIES

Peugeot 607

Peugeot 607

Peugeot 607

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BMW 7 SERIES

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BMW 7 SERIES

Councils in Northern Ireland have spent more than £165,000 of ratepayers' cash on luxury vehicles for mayors and chairmen over the past three years. (stock photo)

Councils in Northern Ireland have spent more than £165,000 of ratepayers' cash on luxury vehicles for mayors and chairmen over the past three years. (stock photo)

Alex Dodd

/

BMW 7 SERIES

Councils in Northern Ireland have spent more than £165,000 of ratepayers' cash on luxury vehicles for mayors and chairmen over the past three years.

In total, six of our 11 councils have 10 vehicles for their first citizens, according to a report by a spending watchdog.

The TaxPayers' Alliance found that, since 2015, 207 local authorities across the UK spent £4.5m on cars for mayors, lord mayors, lord provosts and chairmen.

This includes spends on fuel, maintenance, tax and other associated costs.

Over that same time period, the total bill for Northern Ireland's mayoral cars was £165,286.

Local authorities here spent £101,554 on buying and leasing cars over the three-year period, from April 2015 to March this year.

Ten cars are owned or leased by local authorities across Northern Ireland for the use of the mayor or equivalent figure.

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The vehicles used by local councils' mayors were two Audis, two BMWs, a Chrysler and two Fords alongside three other Peugeot, Skoda and Vauxhall models.

Two councils - Antrim and Newtownabbey and Derry City and Strabane - spent £1,290 of ratepayers' money on personalised number plates, while others purchased their vehicles many years ago.

Eimhear Macfarlane, the Northern Ireland coordinator of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "At a time when the cost of living is rising and wage growth is sluggish, taxpayers will not welcome news of excessive spending.

"Some travel will, of course, be necessary to conduct duties, but spending money on luxury saloons for politicians to attend functions is clearly wasteful," she added.

The highest spend was by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, with a £48,421 bill for its Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro SE.

This was leased at a cost of £33,531, with £10,013 spent on fuel, £4,183 on maintenance and £691 on personalised number plates.

A spokesman for the council said: "The mayoral car is used under terms approved by council in fulfilment of the mayor's duties as frst citizen, however, the deputy mayor makes use of the vehicle when not in use by the mayor.

"With the creation of a much larger council area on April 1, 2015, the number of engagements increased significantly along with the distances travelled by the mayoral car.

"In addition, other elected members and officers make use of the mayoral car to transport them to events, along with the mayor, thereby reducing the number of mileage claims."

Derry City and Strabane came in second, with a three-year spend of £41,774 for two Ford cars - a Mondeo and Vignale.

These were purchased at a cost of £34,450, while the fuel and maintenance bill came to £6,724. Personalised number plates cost a further £600.

A spokesman for Derry City and Strabane District Council advised that it has spent an average of £16,200 per annum on mayoral cars since April 2015.

"The total spend includes the purchase of one car and associated maintenance and fuel costs. The council considers the cars essential in allowing the mayor to attend as many community and business events as possible throughout the council area and beyond," the spokesman added.

In the case of Belfast City Council's total spend of £36,186, their fleet of three cars includes a Peugeot 607 Executive, which the manufacturer stopped producing in 2009, but which the council says it owns.

The two other vehicles in the Belfast fleet are a BMW 7 Series and BMW 730 Series. The lease bill is £17,894 while fuel for the three cars cost £8,280 and £9,921 was spent on maintenance.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said as it is the largest council in Northern Ireland, it therefore requires additional resources to meet greater operational demand.

"Belfast City Council has three vehicles in order to adequately provide the necessary transport for civic dignitaries/official use," he said. "On average, the Lord Mayor of Belfast will attend in the region of 2,000 engagements during their term in office, with the majority of these taking place outside City Hall.

"As well as facilitating the needs of the Lord Mayor, the vehicles are used to meet the diary commitments of the Deputy Lord Mayor and High Sheriff.

"When appropriate, the Lord Mayor will walk to engagements in the city centre and will occasionally use public transport. However, due to the volume of daily engagements and time constraints between engagements, it would not be possible for the Lord Mayor to use public transport all of the time."

In Ards and North Down, the total bill was £15,126 for its one mayoral car, a Skoda Superb. This was leased at a cost of £5,770 and with fuel payments clocking up at £5,496. A further £3,858 was spent on MOT, parts and tyres, road tax and maintenance.

Mid and East Antrim spent £11,906 on a Vauxhall Insignia, which was leased for £9,817, with a fuel bill of £1,875 and £213 on maintenance.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has two cars in operation, an Audi A8 and a Chrysler Grand Voyager, which have cost £11,871 to run since 2015.

The chair and vice-chair of four councils in Northern Ireland, in discharging their official duties, do not use official vehicles. They are Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Fermanagh and Omagh; Mid-Ulster District Council and Newry, Mourne and Down.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council did not provide a response to the request for figures.


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