Government departments spent more than £14m on hire cars in 2021

The Ministry of Defence was accused of ‘inefficiency’ and delivering ‘poor value for money’

Ella Glover
Tuesday 28 December 2021 16:30
<p>The MoD spent nearly £13 million on hire cars for staff </p>

The MoD spent nearly £13 million on hire cars for staff

Government departments have spent more than £14.2 million on hire cars for staff this year despite a public sector pay freeze, an investigation has revealed.

In particular, the Ministry of Defence has come under fire for “wasting” taxpayers money after it was revealed it spent almost £13 million on hire cars for staff in 2021.

The next highest figure was from the Department of Transport, which spent more than £1.1 million on hire cars for staff. Other government departments spent up to tens of thousands of pounds.

The figures, revealed by a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the PA news agency, showed the MoD spent £12,960,612 on hire cars through the Phoenix II vehicle contract in the current calendar year up to November 30. The figure includes VAT but excludes fuel and other costs, it said.

The Phoenix II contract covers all the so-called Top Level Budget areas of the MoD, including Land Forces, Air Command, Defence Equipment and Support, Joint Forces Command, Navy Command, Head Offices and Corporate Services and Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

The MoD fleet covered by the Phoenix II contract provides a mixture of leased and rental vehicles including cars, minibuses, coaches, vans and freight transport, as well as specialist vehicles ranging from dog vans to horse ambulances to mountain rescue vehicles.

Reacting to the revelation, Unite’s acting national officer for defence staff, Caren Evans, called the figure “excessive” and was representative of how “inefficient the MoD is”.

She said: “This is an entirely excessive figure, it demonstrates how hugely inefficient the MoD is and is exceptionally poor value for money for taxpayers.

"This revelation of grandiose spending on hired vehicles by the MoD is a kick in teeth for civilian MoD staff who have experienced a pay freeze this year and are now struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of living crisis in the UK.

"The money spent on hiring cars could and should have been better spent on giving MoD workers a much-needed pay rise."

In his 2020 spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that firefighters, teachers, police, members of the armed forces, civil servants, and council and government agency staff would have pay rises “paused” to reduce expenditure.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey added: "The Defence Department has blown millions of pounds on taxis at the same time as cutting Army numbers and freezing forces’ pay.

"There’s so much waste in MoD budgets and ministers have got no grip on the problems. This Tory waste is letting down frontline forces and taxpayers."

The MoD justified its spend on hired vehicles as its staff “have to travel to locations that are not always accessible with public transport,” and said it is “committed to delivering value for money.”

A spokesperson for the MoD said: "As a large organisation with out-of-town sites across the UK and bases all over the world, our staff have to travel to locations that are not always accessible with public transport and often a lease/hire car or taxi is the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel.

"We are committed to delivering value for money. Our current contract for non-operational vehicles aims to deliver savings of around £152 million over six years."

It added that all travel by MoD civil servants and military personnel must be confirmed as essential and authorised by a manager to ensure the request is valid and represents value for money.

The Department for Transport and its Executive Agencies, which include Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), spent more than £1.1 million on hire vehicles between January and October.

It spent a total of £1,105,126 in the UK and overseas in this period, with the majority of spend incurred by the DVSA, for driving examiners who may need to switch locations as to where they are carrying out tests at short notice.

It said: "Although DVSA is aware of booking patterns and volumes and aims to provide an appropriate number of staff in each location to meet forecasted volumes, there are always going to be cases (on a daily basis) where DVSA needs to move staff from their ‘home’ test centre to an alternative centre to meet increased customer demand and to cover short notice absences.

"The Departmental travel policy states that hire cars can be used rather than personal cars if this is more cost effective."

Other departments spent tens of thousands of pounds on hire cars for staff, including the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education, which spent £48,645.80 (excluding VAT) and £22,840 between April and October respectively.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spent £76,262 from April to October. The department said hire cars were needed by Defra for accessing rural locations for fieldwork.

Between January and October, the Department for International Trade spent £36,339 both in the UK and overseas, and the Treasury spent £16,392.42, saying it included additional costs such as petrol, parking, charges for Congestion, Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) and Dartford Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it had not spent any money on private hire cars for its staff this year while the Attorney General’s office spent just £65.50.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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