The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has come under fire after revelations that it has spent almost £13m on hire cars for staff this year.
A freedom of information (FoI) request by PA Media also showed that the Department for Transport spent more than £1.1m in the year to October, while other departments have spent tens of thousands of pounds. The total figure from responses to the FoI request was more than £14.2m.
The MoD said its staff had to travel across the UK and bases all over the world to locations not always accessible with public transport. Labour and a union representing civilian workers in the MoD, however, criticised the amount of money spent.
Unite’s acting national officer for defence staff, Caren’s Evans, said: “This is an entirely excessive figure, it demonstrates how hugely inefficient the MoD is and is exceptionally poor value for money for taxpayers.
“This revelation of grandiose spending on hired vehicles by the MoD is a kick in teeth for civilian MoD staff who have experienced a pay freeze this year and are now struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of living crisis in the UK. The money spent on hiring cars could and should have been better spent on giving MoD workers a much-needed pay rise.”
The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, said: “The defence department has blown millions of pounds on taxis at the same time as cutting Army numbers and freezing forces’ pay. There’s so much waste in MoD budgets and ministers have got no grip on the problems. This Tory waste is letting down frontline forces and taxpayers.”
The MoD replied to the FoI request: “Expenditure on hire cars for MoD personnel through the Phoenix II vehicle contract for the current calendar year up to 30 November 2021 is 12,960,612. Please note that this figure includes VAT but excludes fuel and other costs.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “As a large organisation with out-of-town sites across the UK and bases all over the world, our staff have to travel to locations that are not always accessible with public transport and often a lease/hire car or taxi is the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel.
“We are committed to delivering value for money. Our current contract for non-operational vehicles aims to deliver savings of around 152m over six years.”
In further guidance, the MoD said all travel by MoD civil servants and military personnel must be confirmed as essential and authorised by a manager to ensure the request is valid and represents value for money.
The Phoenix II contract covers all the so-called top level budget areas of the MoD, including land forces, air command, defence equipment and support, joint forces command, navy command, head offices and corporate services and defence infrastructure organisation.
The MoD fleet covered by the Phoenix II contract provides a mixture of leased and rental vehicles including cars, minibuses, coaches, vans and freight transport, as well as specialist vehicles ranging from dog vans to horse ambulances to mountain rescue vehicles.