A leading Birmingham city councillor has used thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on chauffeur-driven trips to London in executive cars.
Cabinet member for housing Councillor John Lines, used executive cars to make regular trips to the capital, including a £470 trip to an evening function at the Natural History Museum.
He even used one to take him to a photo shoot in Hodge Hill which cost £58.65 and he left a Birmingham taxi meter running whilst he attended a photo shoot in Sparkhill, costing £35.65.
As well as expensive cars, Coun Lines has also called a cab to take him just 0.46 miles between the Council House in Victoria Square and Old Snow Hill.
The journey, for another photo shoot in December, would have taken less than ten minutes to walk, but cost the taxpayer £7.13 each way.
One union has demanded an inquiry and an apology for the “unacceptable use” of chauffeur-driven cars while thousands of jobs are at risk.
But as councillor Lines was being chauffeured around, his council colleague Mike Ward (Lib Dem, Sheldon), spent just £8 to get to and from London on a bargain basement bus.
The accounts show that Coun Ward dragged himself out of bed for a 5.30am trip from Digbeth Coach Station, which did not arrive back into Birmingham until 1.40am last June.
All of the taxi and executive car trips were booked though the Democratic Services directorate, which ran up a private car hire bill of £51,697.
Nearly £7,000 of that bill was spent on executive cars, which were booked just 31 times - with the highest bill coming in at £544.
Councillor Lines spent more than £2,500 on booking executive cars through this department, rather than charging them to his own personal expenses account.
The Birmingham Post did not see the receipts for the remaining £4,500 of executive cars that were booked between the remaining 119 councillors.
Coun Lines said: “I have used the cars on a number of occasions, but I have not been on my own. I am very proud of what we have achieved in Birmingham. I am the only full-time Cabinet Member and I receive many invitations to go and speak all over the country.
“This year, and last year, housing has been the most successful department in receiving awards and, in the main, they have been held in London.
“It’s far cheaper to go by car with two or three staff than to catch a train.
“If I use a cab I don’t keep them waiting during meetings, but the taxis are organised by officers, so I cannot comment on that.
“The reason we have used so many black cabs in the last year is because we are building so many houses across the city. My turnover is now £820 million and it’s my job to go out and see these lovely new homes.”
Coun Ward (Lib Dem, Sheldon) bought a “funfare” service to save the council cash for his London trip.
He said: “I cannot remember which specific meeting I was attending, but I do try to do it as cheaply as I can if I am doing anything on behalf of the council.
“I am not averse to travelling by coach, if it is the cheapest way to do it. I believe the morality should be the same if you are paying yourself, or if the council is paying the bill.
“I must admit it is not always a pleasant experience and some journeys have been dreadful, but it is the cheapest option.”
Receipts from Business Transformation, the department responsible for making the council more efficient and saving money, also show hundreds of short taxi fares between an office in the Bullring and the Council House.
Roger McKenzie, regional secretary for Unison, said: “There needs to be a referral to the standards board and there needs to be a full an open inquiry about the use of chauffeur driven executive cars.
"Councillor Lines owes the people of Birmingham a full and frank apology for his behaviour.
“At a time when we are told to tighten our belts and when thousands of public sector workers are told that their jobs are at risk it is incredible that some of these people think that they have a right to be driven around in chauffeur driven cars. It is unacceptable.”
Birmingham MP Steve McCabe (Lab, Selly Oak) urged the council to “stop frittering money away”.
He said: “The two extremes you have quoted between a bus and a chauffeur driven car show that people can save the taxpayer money when they want to.
“I would have thought that expenditure on these cars should be cut before they start cutting the posts of nursery workers.
“We have a Conservative and Lib Dem government that is telling us that there is no area that cannot be cut and we have councillors in Birmingham spending money on chauffeurs.”
A council spokesman said: “On occasions when the use of public transport or walking is impractical due to distance, time or disability, it is necessary to hire taxis.
“The council has corporate contracts with cab firms in the city to ensure the best rates possible are obtained.”
Councillor John Lines claimed for:
* Six nights at the Ardo Holiday Home cottages in Aberdeen for a housing conference in March 2009. Cost: £500
* Admiralty House, London for seminar in a chauffeur-driven executive car at 6.45am in April 2009. Cost: £442.52
* To LGA offices in London with an officer in a chauffeur-driven car in June 2009. Cost: £396.75
* Travelled with Coun Sue Anderson and four others by chauffeur to Sheraton Hotel, Park Lane, Mayfair, for awards ceremony, Sept 2009. Cost: £420.90
* De Vere Hotel, in Canary Wharf, London in a chauffeur driven executive car for awards in October 2009. Cost: £368
* Taxi, told to wait and return from Anderton Park Road, Sparkhill for photo shoot in November 2009. Cost: £35.65
* Taxi waited during meeting at Star Members Club, Wilmott Drive, Erdington in November 2009. Cost: £42.55
* Meeting with the New Link Housing Trust in Lincolnshire in a chauffeur driven executive car in November 2009. Cost: £431.25
* Taxi to Old Snow Hill from the Council House for a photo shoot in December 2009. Cost: £7.13 each way
* Travelled to Roughley Drive, Hodge Hill in a chauffeur driven executive car for photo shoot in January. Cost: £58.65
* The Natural History Museum in London, in a chauffeur driven executive car at 4pm for a evening function (with late night return journey) in February. Cost: £470
* Business Transformation is responsible for making the council more efficient and saving money, but it ran up a £36,573 taxi bill last year.
* Some of the £6, £7 and £8 fares from training staff were barely 0.4 miles in distance between Norfolk House (next to the Bullring) and the Council House, Central Library or Louisa Ryland House in Newhall Street.
* Some of the Black Cabs from Norfolk House have also been kept waiting. One, that was going just 1.5 miles to Nechells in June, was left waiting 40 minutes and cost the taxpayer £21.
* Another was going half a mile to the Council House, but was left waiting for 18 minutes and cost the city £13.46.