HEALTH workers are driving millions of pounds worth of high end company cars while their health trust is forced to make £10m a year savings.
Following a Freedom of Information request to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) the St Helens Reporter can reveal that the company car list for staff includes 25 Range Rover Evoque’s (prices start at £40,000) 10 BMW 520’s (prices start at £29,830) and 4 Audi A4’s (prices start at £23,960).
In total some 168 staff currently have a company car at NWAS. These include company directors earning more than £100,000 a year down to Band Four staff who earn between £18,000 and £24,000.
Of the seven directors listed at NWAS, two drive Range Rover Evoque’s, one a BMW 520, one a Toyota Avensis, one a Volkswagon Tiguan and another a BMW 320.
Only one director drives a Toyota Prius hybrid car - deemed one of the most eco-friendly on the market.
However, NWAS have defended their company car policy.
A spokesman confirmed that not all staff are entitled to a company car, but say individuals pay towards expensive models themselves.
The spokesman said: “The policy is determined by the number of business miles they do in the year.
“The number of staff entitled to a Trust vehicle is very small in comparison to the approximate 5,200 staff members.
“Some individuals choose to pay extra themselves to have a more expensive car. This does not affect the Trust’s contribution towards the lease costs.
“The Trust operates across approximately 5,400 square miles and over 120 sites. The demand for staff travel is therefore high. If it is of financial benefit to the Trust, to provide high mileage staff with a lease car rather than pay the national full mileage rates.”
The car scheme has been criticised by the shadow health minister and MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham and union officials.
He said: “The public and staff will rightly be asking how the North West Ambulance Service can be spending vast amounts of money on leasing top of the range cars for their staff, whilst at the same time the Trust needs to save millions of pounds.
“When you see the some of the high-end models that are being provided it begs the question as to whether the Trust is really getting the best value for money from these arrangements.”
A union spokesman said: “We find it difficult to understand why NHS managers should need Range Rovers just to get themselves to work every day.
“In the current climate, when we are struggling for front-line resources, this seems disgraceful.”