Shock new figures on Highland Council car hire bill
New figures suggest Highland Council spends around £30,000 a month on hire cars for its workers.
The council spent a total of £363,063 on hired cars, including £120,138 on fuel costs for the last financial year.
The local authority defended the costs – saying the council covered the largest local authority area in Scotland.
But the figures have been described as "a disgrace" by one councillor who is calling for a review.
Councillor Glynis Sinclair, the opposition Scottish National Party member for Culloden and Ardersier, said she was stunned to see the total cost the council spent on hire cars just in one year.
"It means the council is spending £30,000 a month on hired cars - that’s a disgrace," she said. "I want to know more about the type of cars that are being hired and by whom."
And opposition councillor David Alston, who leads the council’s Liberal Democrat group, said more details would be needed to give some perspective to the figures.
But he said it would be interesting to see the cost of hired cars compared with alternatives schemes such as paying mileage costs for using their own cars.
A council spokeswoman said the type of cars being hired for staff were "generally Ford Fiestas - nothing grand".
She said: "Our staff are always encouraged to share travel where possible to cut costs and to video conference instead of travelling but it’s not always possible to do that if you have to actually be somewhere providing a service. And the Highland Council is the biggest local authority area in Scotland with nearly 7000 kms of road network."
The lack of an individual city council for Inverness and smaller councils to give the other areas more local decision-making powers has been a bone of contention with much of the public and councillors alike.
Richard Laird, the deputy leader of the council’s SNP group in Highland, is calling for the council to be abolished and replaced with smaller councils after next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.
The idea has been floated before, and some councillors are wary about the costs and consequences of a massive shake-up.
But the Green Party’s list candidate for the Highlands and Islands Isla O’Reilly said the cost of hire cars for council staff "proved that we have a ridiculous situation in Highland where we have a council that is too big".
She said: "We have one unitary authority covering the size of Belgium and we have council officers having to drive the length and breadth of the area and what we really need is to have smaller areas looking after themselves."