ALMOST 200 local authority electric cars are lying untouched across the city, the Glasgow Times can reveal – despite the council spending more than £400,000 to lease mini-vans for binmen to comply with social distancing measures.

The vehicles are believed to have been permanently parked at City Parking structures at Charing Cross and Duke Street since last year with nothing to do but gather dust.

It’s understood the contract for the eco fleet – which includes small Nissan vans and cars – was in place prior to the nationwide coronavirus shutdown in March last year.

However, the vehicles were not delivered until restrictions were already in place to tackle the spread of the virus and have been left in the city centre parking lots ever since.

Earlier this year, the Glasgow Times revealed the council spent an eye-watering £403,586.76 since last August hiring minibuses for cleansing staff to comply with distancing requirements.

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Strict regulations meant the refuse team were unable to travel together in the close quarters of a bin truck, prompting the need for part of the crew to drive closely behind in an Arnold Clark vehicle.

Prior to the leasing agreement, the council was using part of its current fleet, including ASN school buses which were available during the school closures and holidays, to ferry binmen and StreetScene staff around.

Since January, the cash spent has steadily declined and it’s understood the contract has now ended given the majority of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 restrictions have now been lifted.

However, news of the supply of environmentally friendly cars and vans – which is understood to be a collective of around 180 vehicles – which are yet to turn a key has prompted anger from all directions.

Opposition councillors have slammed the lack of use as “embarrassing” given the upcoming UN environmental summit due to be held in the city.

A city Labour group councillor described the parked cars as a “hidden shame”.

Councillor Paul Carey said: “It is incredible that in the run up to COP26, Glasgow is to lead the way in fighting the climate emergency and yet there are hundreds of electric cars lying for nearly two years collecting dust hidden in a car park.

“Is this the message we are sending out to the world on tackling the climate emergency?

“It brings the wrong kind of attention as the world’s spotlight shines on Glasgow.”

It’s understood coronavirus restrictions played a part in the inability to put the cars and vans into service at the council.

Social distancing restrictions put a halt on driver training which has delayed the roll-out of vehicles among council staff.

Conservative councillors have called for the cars to be put into use as a matter of urgency.

Group leader councillor Thomas Kerr said: “Enhancing the number of electric cars among the council’s fleet is vital to achieve net zero targets in the coming years.

“Glasgow taxpayers will be astonished that the council are wasting money on these cars which are gathering dust in a car park.

“That is a ridiculous situation as the city prepares to host COP26 in a matter of weeks.

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“Worse still, they have wasted even more money renting out polluting transport from a commercial provider.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council insisted the delay in getting the cars out on the streets was purely due to coronavirus and training was already in place to ensure sure local authority staff were able to get behind the wheel as soon as possible.

He said: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic agreements were struck which ensured the council could take possession of new electric vehicles on very competitive terms with grant support.

“These agreements supported the council’s plan to create a fleet of zero emissions vehicles and it could not be guaranteed such favourable terms would remain on offer. He said: “We took delivery of the vehicles during lockdown and if it were not for the impact of lockdown then we are confident that most, if not all, of these electric vehicles would already be in use by this time.”

He added: “Unfortunately, the vehicles arrived at a time when national restrictions on in-driver training meant staff were unable to undertake the induction programme needed for them to be authorised to drive the vehicles. “The training programme has now been back up and running and that has helped to bring more electric cars into service across the different service areas of the council.

“Despite the on-going impact of the pandemic, further detailed plans are also in place which will see more staff able to access an electric vehicle for their work with these cars being distributed to an increasing range of council premises.

“Using mini-buses to transport cleansing crews in support of refuse vehicles during the pandemic was the safest and most sensible option for ensuring bin collections ran as efficiently as possible during a very challenging time.”