POLICE in North Yorkshire spent more than a quarter of a million pounds on hire cars in less than a year, the force has confirmed.

Between April 2017 and February this year, the force was invoiced for a total of £267,649.56 by Enterprise Rent-A-Car for vehicle fuel, hire and lease – an amount which could pay the annual wage of 13 new frontline PCs.

Departments within the force using the hire cars included custody, financial and forensic investigations teams, major incident teams, neighbourhood policing and response teams, the safety camera van operators and firearms officers, among others.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said the vehicles would not be used to transport members of the public, but were mainly for use by officers and staff when the force’s own vehicles would not be appropriate.

He said: “We own a fleet of around 500 vehicles, including a pool car fleet of about 20 vehicles. Hire cars supplement this for one-off daily rentals or short periods when it wouldn’t be cost-effective to own and run a vehicle.

“For example, hire cars can be a cost-effective way to allow staff to attend training courses, or to be redeployed to another location on a temporary basis for operational reasons.”

The starting salary of a North Yorkshire Police officer is £19,773, meaning the funds spent on car hire in 10 months could have paid the annual salaries of more than a dozen new full-time frontline police constables.

Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said she had been “reassured” the contract was good value for money, as it covers all forces in Yorkshire and Humberside.

She also said the massive increase in costs was “in large part related to Operation Kingfisher in Kirby Misperton”, where police have spent more than £700,000 policing protesters at a fracking site.

She said: “General use of hire cars has also gone up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean bad value for money.

“As we constantly scrutinise efficiency and effectiveness however, I will ask the relevant people to ensure the right controls are in place before vehicles are hired and push for costs to be reduced wherever possible.”

North Yorkshire Police has an ongoing contract with Enterprise, and figures previously show the annual cost in 2016 was about £150,000.

The spokesman said the contract was “competitively tendered by our regional procurement team”, in December 2013, and was due to be renewed this year.

The spokesman said: “Like any other organisation, we take a balanced approach to supplying transport services - with a mix of owned, pooled and hire vehicles - to ensure we get best value.”

“We are committed to reducing the environmental, financial and social impacts from our business travel. Before making each business journey, staff are asked to assess whether it can be achieved through the use of audio or video-conferencing facilities, or by public transport such as rail or bus.”