- by CLIFF MOGG

NO expense is spared when it comes to providing transport for Rushmoor's Mayor.

The annual cost of hiring the black Scorpio and driver is £23,500 - which puts the borough top of the spending league when compared to seven other local authorities of a similar size.

Just behind Rushmoor is Winchester, which spends £22,000 on running its Mayor around.

Bottom of the league is Maidstone which operates its own Mayoral car at a cost of only £2000 a year. Their mayor drives himself to functions.

The figures emerged during a Rushmoor Council investigation to see if the Mayor was providing value for money.

Andrew Colver, council democratic services chief, said in a report that Rushmoor's costs were "broadly in line" with the other authorities.

But it was difficult to provide an exact comparison because the other authorities had different ways of organising Mayoral duties.

On the question of transport costs, he said Rushmoor contracted a chauffeur and car whenever the Mayor was out and about.

At the other end of the scale, the chairman of one of the authorities questioned - New Forest - drove himself to events.

Mr Colver said the high cost might also be a reflection of the busy programme that Rushmoor's Mayor had to deal with. "Rushmoor holds more civic and mayoral events than many other authorities," he continued.

"This may reflect the borough's close association with the military."

The total cost of the Mayor's office at the last count was £92,650, which according to Mr Colver's report appeared to be money well spent.

He said: "Rushmoor is often complimented on its civic and mayoral events and this has resulted in it being highly regarded in the area."

The council, however, intends to have a further look at the costs in September this year.