CALLS are being made for Winchester City Council to slash its mileage rates after it was revealed the authority is paying almost 50 per cent more than the government recommended figure.

Staff are currently pocketing 65 pence per mile for work related journeys - 20 pence per mile more than the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) amount.

Winchester is one of only a handful of councils in Hampshire to offer above the 45 pence per mile rate.

The figure has shocked city councillor, Martin Tod, who has described the authority’s mileage rate as “absurd”.

The Liberal Democrat, who is also a county councillor, said: “I’ve never claimed mileage and I’m really shocked by this.

“At a time when so many services are being cut, to pay that much in mileage is beyond belief.

“If Hampshire County Council and Eastleigh think 45 pence per mile is right the I don’t see why Winchester can’t do the same.”

Despite the call to reduce the figure, Winchester City Council, who paid out £21,788 in mileage claims this year, says it is standing firm on its mileage rates.

A spokesperson said: “We have no plans to change our use of a nationally agreed figure.

“The council reimburses casual usage mileage at the national rate set by NJC (National Joint Council for local government services) as do many other local authorities.”

“NJC and HMRC differ on the actual cost of car usage. Staff will pay National Insurance contributions and be taxed on the difference where appropriate.”

The spokesperson added: “We keep all terms and conditions under review and any changes will always be part of a properly negotiated package which helps to ensure that we can recruit the people we need to provide city council services.”

According to data, released by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), New Forest District Council also currently reimburses its staff by 65 pence per mile.

Southampton City Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Eastleigh Borough Council all pay the recommended 45 pence per mile, according to the pressure group.

Meanwhile, Hampshire County Council says it pays the HMRC recommended rate.

The figures come as part of a drive by the TPA to get local authorities across the country to reduce their mileage rates.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Driving is extremely expensive in Britain thanks to sky-high rates of fuel duty and vehicle excise duty, but there’s no excuse for councils to pay more than HMRC’s approved rate for mileage.

“It’s simply not credible for local authorities to plead poverty and raise council tax while paying over the odds for basic expenses, especially when the government has been telling them to rein in these payments for the past five years.

“Councils must continue to root out wasteful spending like this so that they can deliver tax cuts for hard-pressed residents.”

According to the TPA, £223 million in mileage allowance payments were made to council employees across the country in 2016-17.

The biggest spender in Hampshire was the county council, who paid out more than £5million in mileage claims this year.

Hampshire County Council’s executive member for human resources, councillor Stephen Reid, said: “Hampshire is the third largest county council in the country; it is 85 per cent rural in nature and employs around 12,000 staff excluding schools.

“Our mileage rates reimburse staff for using their private vehicles for County business, at the HMRC rate of 45p per mile.

“The rate then reduces to 25p over 10,000 miles.

“Our staff clock up thousands of miles every year serving the Hampshire community, delivering important frontline services to 1.3 million residents.

“Reducing the overall cost of mileage is best achieved by the use of new technology to support flexible, mobile and home working – an approach we are progressing as part of our ongoing work to make economies within the county council.”