More than a quarter of motorists in the West Midlands are defrauding their employers by claiming for private purchases among their work mileage expenses, a survey has claimed.

The research suggests that 27 per cent of people carry out the practice – with food, drinks and even cigarettes favoured items which regional employees hide in their expenses.

A further 61 per cent also admitted to regularly using the nearest forecourt, rather than looking around for the cheapest fuel prices, and often paying over the odds on the forecourt.

The study by fuel card comparison website surveyed 1,058 employees the UK.

Mark Kilvington, director, said: "Our survey reveals a shocking and unnecessary waste of expenditure by businesses in the region who are clearly being taken for a ride by their own employees.

"I can't think of single occasion when a firm would knowingly reimburse an employee for a pack of 20 Marlboros they've bought on the way back from a meeting." says that "pay and reclaim'"schemes, as they are known, for staff claiming back mileage in their private cars are fraught with loopholes.

Stephen Alambritis, head of parliamentary affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses says: "Employee fraud takes many different guises, but it's smaller businesses that are bearing the brunt of this problem."