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Council travel ‘perk’ could be axed by end of year
A PERK which allows hundreds of council staff in York to use their work vehicles for commuting while taxpayers cover their fuel bills could be axed by the end of the year.
City of York Council officers were told to look at a system which allows up to 200 of the authority’s employees to take vehicles home without paying for petrol or diesel themselves.
The review was ordered after the Labour group took control last year by council leader James Alexander when he learned about the long-standing perk.
Since then talks have been held with trade unions about a change in the rules.
New guidelines are now set to be brought in within months, meaning staff will have to foot their own fuel costs when they use council vehicles to commute.
The total cost of the current home-to-work transport scheme is believed to be about £150,000 a year.
Coun Alexander said that while some staff needed to take vehicles home because they were on call, others lived some distance from York and the policy needed to be reviewed.
“I instructed officers to address this issue on learning of this practice which had gone on for many years,” he said.
“As with all important issues involving staff, it has required discussions with trade unions. Long-standing practice is an implied contractual term, with legal standing, so discussions progressed and officers have had to give this proper consideration.
“A policy for charging staff for home-to-work transport should be implemented in the coming months, and I expect this to be by the end of 2012 following further discussions with staff representatives.”
Coun Alexander said the new rules would be in line with the withdrawal of Park&Ride passes for council staff, which has already been introduced, and would ensure “all staff are treated equally” over personal travel matters.
“This sum of money would be better spent keeping staff in work and delivering services for York residents,” he said.
When the review was launched, Coun Alexander said it was accepted that some staff made a contribution towards the use of pool cars and were sometimes asked to take them home to avoid problems with storage on council premises.
The perk is believed to have been introduced in the early 1980s as part of the terms and conditions of staff transferring to York from Ryedale and Selby under local government reorganisation.
The UNISON union, which represents many council staff in York, has said allowing staff to take vehicles home often meant they were in the best position to drive to a location the following day and helped productivity and efficiency, while tracking devices had been fitted to the council’s fleet to prevent the system being abused.