Motability’s renovation spending comes under fire
According to a report by the Sunday Times, Motability Operations – the company that operates the Motability leasing scheme – was found to have spent £26m renovating its offices, an amount being scrutinised by MPs.
The discovery comes following scrutiny of the Scheme’s finances, which was found to have stockpiled large reserves of £2.4bn and paid Motability Operations’ CEO up to £1.7m.
According to the newspaper, a three-year refurbishment taking place from 2011 to 2013 led to the creation of an 80,000 sq ft campus in Bristol, described by the Sunday Times as having ‘the relaxed, affluent style of a tech company’ and a 60,000 sq ft London location with expensive vases and chrome fittings.
Area, the workplace design and office fit-out specialists that carried out the refurbishment, describe how the new offices included shower facilities, bike storage, ad-hoc break out areas, new furniture, as well as the installation of integrated room booking, video conferencing and intelligent lighting.
Both offices also have matching boardrooms, with ‘art displays and tables worth several thousands of pounds each’, according to the Times.
Contracted by Motability (the Charity) to operate the Motability Car, Powered Wheelchair & Scooter Scheme, Motability Operations has operated the Scheme since 1978 and claims to deliver a consistent, ‘worry-free’ leasing proposition to recipients of qualifying mobility allowances across the UK.
The Scheme and Motability Operations’ has been criticized by those inside and outside the industry as being anti-competitive, with the company having direct access to individuals’ disability benefit payments, guaranteeing that the company receives payment.
The paper also suggested senior executives at Mobility Operations spent lavish amounts on away days and overnight stays at expensive, glitzy hotels.
A statement from the company said: “Motability Operations is Europe’s largest car-leasing company with 800 staff in Bristol and London. Since 2002 the management team has cut costs by almost 30% while delivering over £1bn to disabled drivers and their families through subsidies and charitable donations to Motability (the Charity).
“[We] are proud that our refurbishment in 2011 means that our buildings meet the highest standards of access and other facilities for disabled people.”
Despite the statement, MPs already discontented with the Scheme’s financial management have called on the National Audit Office to inspect the spend and refurbishments.