It has been revealed that a UK council spent over £77,000 over three years on chauffeurs for the mayor. Southwark Council squandered the cash on hundreds of trips between 2019 and 2022, according to data revealed by a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Most journeys were between addresses within Southwark, but other journeys were in the Berkshire and London Boroughs, including Hounslow and Westminster. Hounslow-based S7 Chauffeurs was the service of choice for Southwark Mayors between 2019 and 2020.

The company boasts of providing customers with “the latest standard in luxury, comfort and service.” According to its website, its fleet includes luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce and Bentley Mulsanne, as well as a Mercedes S-Class, Range Rover, and Audi A8.

Victor Chamberlain, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition, called the amount spent on drivers “alarming”. reports MyLondon. Cllr Chamberlain, a member for Borough and Bankside, said: “During this cost of living crisis, council must do all they can to save and ensure money is spent where it is needed most. That is why it is alarming to see so much spending on the mayor’s chauffeur service in recent years.

“Thousands of dollars are spent almost every month on short car rides for the mayor, most of which are within the borough. This spending could surely be used elsewhere, and Labor is clearly not doing enough to make sure residents’ money is spent on the services they need.”

Southwark Council said the chauffeur service was used to transport the mayor and his assistant to special occasions and official events. The borough had two different mayors between April 2019 and March 2022. Sandra Rhule, who is also the Labor councilor for Nunhead and Queen’s Road, served as mayor from 2019 to 2020. She was succeeded by Cllr Barrie Hargove, a Labor member for Peckham, who held the position until May 2022.

In the 12 months until the Covid-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, the council wasted £35,000 on the chauffeur service. The lockdown travel ban meant no trips were made for the next three months. In July 2020, the easing of restrictions by the government saw chauffeured travel slowly resume.

The council ended up spending a comparatively modest £8,352 on travel in the year of April 2020 to March 2021. But with lockdown restrictions being phased out, the amount Southwark spent on chauffeurs skyrocketed to just under £ 34,000 in 2022, slightly below its pre-pandemic peak.

A particularly expensive trip within Southwark on 12 November 2021 cost the council £591. Another trip made months earlier within Berkshire on May 24 cost the council £515. Due to the way information was recorded by Southwark, details of individual journeys made with the chauffeur service are not available before 2021.

In February, Labour-led council agreed to cut £50,000 from the mayor’s £70,000 annual transport budget by limiting the use of the chauffeur service to “key civic events”, rather than “all mayoral commitments”. Cllr Chamberlain said he welcomed the reduction, but called on the council to “go further and find a greener, more cost-effective alternative to the current arrangement.”

A spokesman for Southwark Council said: “The money spent on the mayor’s car is historic. The car was mainly used to transport the mayor and his assistant in very heavy and valuable mayoral livery to special occasions and official events.

“Since then, accepting that the high costs of private transport are not the best use of public money, particularly during the cost of living crisis, we have significantly reduced the mayor’s transport budget from £60,000 to £7,500, currently in bidding for a new contractor.”

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