Officials and members of Birmingham City Council have been told they must use cut-price rail saver tickets after it emerged the local authority spends £6,000 a week on train fares.

Financial watchdogs ordered a clampdown amid concern that the cost of councillors and senior officers using the trains is spiralling out of control.

Two-thirds of journeys made during 2005 on council business were to London according to a memo from corporate finance director Brendan Arnold, obtained by The Birmingham Post.

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Mr Arnold, who wants the council's annual £300,000 rail fare bill to be cut by £50,000.

He set out in an Efficiency Advice Note three ways that savings should be made:

* All rail tickets to be purchased in advance;

* Where possible journeys off-peak;

* Purchase two single tickets to give a saving of 31 per cent on trips to London.

The note adds: "By adopting the above principles the city should make a minimum of £50,000 cashable savings each year. Non-cashable savings of staff time incurred in dealing with travel warrants will be improved when purchase cards/supplier cards are more widely introduced within the council."

Mr Arnold's memo was sent to senior councillors and officials at the end of October.

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Earlier this week, the council said it could only give The Birmingham Post details of taxi fares and first class rail travel by staff and councillors upon the payment of £9,000. The fee would cover the cost of staff time taken to collate spending during 2005.

However, it is clear from Mr Arnold's note that the council is aware of how much it is spending on train travel.

Last night Paul Tilsley, the deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said The Post's request for information was "legitimate" and he promised to investigate the demand for £9,000.

Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) said he would personally conduct a review of rail travel to see whether all journeys could be justified.

He added: "One of the problems is that the UK is very London-centric and a lot of local government meetings are held in London.

"Senior officers and councillors have to go there frequently.

"Birmingham is the largest local authority and we have to get out and about.

"However, there are strategies to cut the cost of rail travel and I shall be making sure they are put into place."

Mr Arnold's memo does not specify how many train journeys were made or the number of first class trips.