Labour ministers ran up £6.74m chauffeur bills

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Labour ministers ran up a shocking £6.74m bill for chauffeur-driven cars last year according to official figures, a rise of £500,000 on the previous year.

Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary, was the worst offender, with his bill coming to £694,236 as he and his department had the use of seven ministerial cars. Alan Johnson's home office was second on the list, spending £514,593.

Ed Balls and his education department spent £489,000 on six cars, while his wife, Yvette Cooper, and her work and pensions department racked up £506,000. The Cabinet Office, which provided support for Gordon Brown, paid £362,790.

Many of the department employees will have been driven around in a Toyota Prius or a Jaguar, depending on their status, but the Coalition government is being urged to use public transport in a bid to cut the bills.

"Ministers are now encouraged to use public transport where practicable, and the number of ministers entitled to an allocated government car and driver has been kept to a minimum," transport secretary Philip Hammond told MPs in a statement.

The biggest bills were as follows:

£694,236: Lord Mandelson, Business, Innovation and Skills department
£514,593: Alan Johnson, Home Office
£489,193: Ed Balls, Department for Children, Schools and Families
£488,276: Communities and Local Government
£362,790: Gordon Brown, The Cabinet Office
£303,129: Ed Miliband, Energy and Climate Change