Council workers urged to become green commuters

Council workers have been urged to take up greener modes of transport. Picture: G Macvean
Council workers have been urged to take up greener modes of transport. Picture: G Macvean
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CITY bosses are being urged to do more to encourage staff to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of claiming car mileage for council business.

Latest figures show council employees were paid almost £1 million in mileage allowances in 2017 for using their own vehicles for work.

And Green councillors want a new look at how the use of alternative modes of travel can be increased.

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin agreed at last week’s full council meeting to a Green plea to ask officials to review the mileage scheme.

The council said it currently operated a pilot scheme with e-bikes available to use for council business.

And the amount claimed in mileage has fallen steadily over the past five years.

But Green group leader Steve Burgess warned the SNP-Labour administration against complacency.

He said the 2 million miles a year recorded in claims was the equivalent of travelling round the earth 87 times.

“It is good to see that car mileage by council staff has been going down, and, of course, there are many vital journeys – like those made by care workers or locality officers – which are part of the basic service.

“But with over 2 million miles waved through last year at a staggering cost of £1m plus around 9 kilo-tonnes of climate-changing pollution, the council really can’t afford to be complacent. It seems to have got stuck in a rut, automatically signing off mileage without a second thought.”

He said there had to be scope to review the situation and achieve a “win-win-win” on congestion, pollution and spending. “Is the journey necessary? Can staff share with colleagues or take the bus? Is it more efficient to walk or cycle? I would expect all of these questions to be asked rigorously and for the council to lead the way in reducing the pressure of traffic in the city.

“Councillor Rankin agreed with my call for a review aimed at encouraging greener alternatives so I’ll be holding his feet to the fire on this.

“The council really needs to start walking the walk with green travel, such as offering staff free bus passes, access to electric car-club vehicles and more than just a few e-bikes instead of providing dirty diesel pool cars.”

Cllr Rankin said the council was committed to encouraging active and sustainable travel throughout the city, including by staff.

He said: “While we’ve seen a continued reduction in the number of mileage claims from staff who use their own vehicles over the past five years – a number of journeys remain essential to council business. For example, Home care workers who support people to remain living independently at home must travel on a daily basis.

“We encourage staff to take an active approach to their wellbeing through initiatives such as our bike to work scheme. We also support people to, where appropriate, work flexibly to reduce travel, such as through compressed hours or arrangements to work from home.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com