The front page of today's Western Morning News splashes on the mileage rates apparently paid to some Cornwall Council staff. The claim is made that this was as high as 65p per mile. The price of petrol may be eye-wateringly high at the moment, but there is clearly no justification for paying such high rates.
But the implication of the Taxpayers' Alliance report (which forms the basis of the WMN splash) that these payments continue is not the case in fact. The newspaper properly reflects this but the TA report does not as it uses the present tense saying that staff are able to claim the 65p rate rather than the truth - which is that they were able to do so in the past.
The report also fails to note (as the BBC's Graham Smith does) that the 65p rate was for the first 8500 miles after which the rate dropped to 16p per mile. Apparently telling the whole truth "would have been overly complicated".
When Cornwall Council was created, many staff were transferred from the former districts and County Council at their original terms and conditions. Some of these included the very high mileage rates.
Cornwall Council has rightly looked at the mileage rates and changed the system in January last year so that all staff are now paid at the rate of 40p per mile for the first 3000 miles and 20p per mile thereafter - a rate which properly balances the need for value for money and the actual cost to the staff member in using their car and which is lower than the guideline rate set by the Inland Revenue.
At the same time, the Council is working to ensure that staff don't need to travel so much as part of their work - although I think there will still be some more work to do on this.
So whilst the Taxpayer's Alliance report is factually correct, it is disappointing that they don't note the good work that Cornwall Council has done to bring these costs down.