A SCOTTISH Council spent an “astonishing” £363,000 on hire cars for staff last year despite cutting budgets by tens of millions of pounds.
Highland Council admitted that in the year 2014-15 it spent £242,925 on car hire plus £120,138 on fuel for the vehicles.
No details were provided about the nature of the journeys, how many trips were taken or the types of cars hired.
But Highland Council insisted its officials hired only “generally basic models” for their journeys.
The revelation has been condemned in the light of budget cuts of £46m that will be imposed on Highland residents over the next three years.
Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “This needs to be addressed urgently because this is an astonishing sum of money given the restraints being asked of other parts of the council.”
Eben Wilson, of pressure group Taxpayer Scotland said: “A council with a widespread geographical remit like the Highland should be doubly active in the stewardship of taxpayers’ money.
“All Scottish councils need to work smarter, making their staff fully accountable and transparent in their use of scarce resources.”
Resources chairman Bill Fernie claimed the car hires saved money.
He said: “The alternative is that you have staff driving their own cars and claiming mileage. The council has 10,000 staff and quite a lot have to travel as part of their duties.”
According to the Highland Council Code of Conduct for car allowances, a member of staff will receive £26.50 per day for a short term car hire, while claiming 13p per mile in fuel for these journeys.