ALMOST £100,000 of taxpayers’ cash has been spent by Hampshire councils in the past three years on transport for their mayors, it has been revealed.

Winchester City Council were the biggest spenders, splashing out £36,000 (£12,000 a year) on a professional chauffeur company to ferry its ceremonial leader to events.

Gosport Borough Council came in second with £17,993.10 spent; £11,601.81 of which was shelled out on leasing an Audi A6, with £2,148.07 on fuel; £650 of this cash was also spent on car washes.

New Forest District Council was another to spend big, totting up costs of £12,530.30 on taxis.

In total, £93,540.90 was dished out across the county between April 2015 and March 2018 on transport for mayors, lord mayors, lord provosts and their equivalents.

It comes as part of an investigation by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which sent out Freedom of Information requests to authorities across the country.

Its chief executive, John O’Connell, said: “Councils’ priorities should be on fulfilling their statutory obligations to the people who pay their salaries.

“To see Winchester City Council dishing out £12,000 a year on a chauffeur service is just not on.”

Other authorities were also found to have spent thousands of pounds on transport.

This included East Hampshire District Council which spent £11,528 on a hired-car from January 2015 to June 2018. Havant Borough Council was the next biggest spender with £7,900, Eastleigh Borough Council were next in the local list with £7,616.50, finally followed by Fareham Borough Council, which spent £5,440.

However, Basingstoke and Deane Borough, Hampshire County, Southampton City, and Test Valley Borough councils all responded to FOI request with a combined total of £0 over the three-year period.

Southampton’s mayoral car was taken out of use in 2015, with its special TR1 number plate attached to a community minibus.

Nationally, the figures found that 207 local authorities spent £4,513,607 on cars for mayors and their equivalents. Over that same time period, the TPA says, council tax in England has increased by an average of £188.

John O’Connell added: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing local authorities say they have no money left when there are still instances of excessive spending.

“Some travel will of course be necessary to conduct duties but families who struggle to pay their council tax bill will roll their eyes at the thought of their hard-earned money being spent on Bentleys and Jaguars for politicians to attend functions.

“Forty per cent of councils didn’t lease or buy cars, so all other local authorities should follow that example and encourage civic leaders to use cheaper forms of transport. Every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections.”

What the councils had to say

Winchester City Council 

“The mayor of Winchester plays a very important role, acting as the district’s ambassador for all ceremonial activities.

“The majority of the mayor’s time is spent supporting local community, voluntary and charitable organisations and local businesses that contribute to the wellbeing and social cohesion of the community. Over the past three years, the district’s mayoralty has raised more than £95,000 for a range of different causes.

“To support this work, the mayor attends more than 550 engagements each year in a district that spans 250 square miles.

“The council recently reviewed the different transport options for the mayor of Winchester including leasing a vehicle, purchasing a vehicle, pool cars, and employing a driver, but it was determined that the current approach remains the most cost-effective.”

Gosport Borough Council 

“The mayor attends an average of 300 official engagements each year – approximately 250 of them require use of the car. If the engagement is local the mayor drives herself to the town hall and will walk from there (accompanied) after collecting the chain of office.

“The vehicle is leased as it’s a more tax and cost efficient way of providing the transport required for this civic office.”

New Forest District Council 

“The council’s view is that it is more economical, and flexible, to hire a private hire vehicle for use by the chairman when attending civic events in their role to represent and promote NFDC, rather than purchasing and maintaining a vehicle.

“The chairman uses his/her own vehicle for most of the events attended. The hired vehicle is used for some out-of-area events that are held in the evenings.

“If a dedicated vehicle was purchased, the council would, in addition to the purchase price, incur additional costs on items such as a driver, insurance, vehicle tax, fuel, and depreciation.”