News in more detail – travel expenses
A recent Freedom of Information request asked for a breakdown of the expenses claims made by the chief executives of a number of public sector organisations over the last three years.
Orkney Islands Council provided detailed information in response about the expenses incurred by Chief Executive Alistair Buchan in carrying out approved duties on behalf of OIC.
Since then, the impression has been given that the cost of Mr Buchan’s business travel is higher than that of other council Chief Executives.
To set the record straight, Mr Buchan generally travels to meetings south using his own car and submits mileage claims to cover the cost of this. This results in a considerable saving for OIC when compared to the equivalent cost of flights to the same meetings.
It amounts to an average saving of up to £180 per trip – up to £7,380 in total over the past three years.
When officials travel on behalf of the organisation - whether by car or by plane - the costs involved are funded by the Council.
But in common with other local authorities, mileage and flight costs are recorded in different ways.
Mileage is recorded as an expense claimed by an individual after making a trip by car. Flights are booked and paid for by the organisation itself and so are not recorded as an expense incurred by an individual member of staff.
For this reason, it is misleading to compare Mr Buchan’s overall expenses with those of the Chief Executives of other Islands Councils, who generally travel by air to meetings on mainland Scotland.
A fair comparison would only include Mr Buchan’s non-mileage expenses. These amount to £2254.23 for 2017-18, £1319.93 for 2016-17, and £862.41 for 2015-16.
On a like-for-like basis, Mr Buchan’s expenses are similar to those quoted in the media for other Chief Executives from islands-based Councils. We would re-iterate that by travelling by car to meetings – instead of flying – Mr Buchan saves the council a substantial amount of money.
It is also worth stating that Chief Executives travelling to meetings from Councils based on the mainland often have access to pool cars and so incur no mileage costs. This is not an option for Mr Buchan.