Epic mobility saga draws to a close as Motability pledges to reform itself

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Motability has finally published a series of recommendations for itself, promising to run the scheme differently and hold ongoing reviews of its board, policies and governance, 18 months after revelations of its finances and boss’s salary first came to light.

An investigation launched into the mobility equipment leasing charity, which is funded by taxpayers, last year when questions arose over how much it pays its bosses, its multi-billion pound reserves and tax allowances amounting to nearly £1bn a year. (FULL TIMELINE BELOW)

Following a number of letters between Parliamentary committees and chiefs of Motability, the scheme has now published its own corporate governance findings, which says its policies, the role of its bosses, and how it uses its resources must change.    

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The Chairs of both the Work and Pensions and Treasury Committees were disappointed that it has taken five months for Motability to publish the review and said in a letter that they were dissatisfied with “Motability Governors’ attitude and approach”.

In the final letter of the exchange, to the head of Motability, the Chairs expressed their frustration that, had Motability provided the full information requested the issue could have been resolved months ago.

Following the inquiry into the scheme’s finances and remuneration policy, including a near £2m paycheque for its boss Mike Betts, the National Audit Office (NAO) conducted a review of Motability’s governance.

It concluded that tax exemptions provided to the Motability Scheme amounted to £888 million in 2017 alone, support that no other private company is able to access.

Treasury Committee Chair Nicky Morgan noted in February: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. So it’s extremely disappointing that Motability is refusing to provide our committees with the evidence that we have requested.”

The Committees have now been provided with the final version of Motability’s Governance review. The outcome of the government’s review of its support for Motability is not yet published.

Mr Field said: “This much ado over a bit of transparency from an organisation enjoying monopoly status and nearly a billion pounds a year in special tax allowances is deeply unseemly.

“Last month brought us the baffling spectacle of a DWP minister announcing the charity’s spending decisions to Parliament – as though Motability is sloshing with so much money from tax exemptions and unique access to disabled people’s benefits that they barely know what to do it with it themselves.

“More money for disabled people who desperately need it is great news: cycling vast sums of taxpayers’ money through a company’s coffers is not the way to do it. At the very least a company in receipt of massive taxpayer funding should be positively, proactively transparent.

“Instead, it’s taken them since February to give the Committees the information we asked for. Motability should be on notice now: up your game and start giving a very different account of yourself.” 

How it unfolded

February 2018 Motability Operations responds to criticism from MPs “outraged” by revelations of a £2.4bn surplus and the £1.7m salary it paid its chief in 2017

February 2018 An urgent request is put to the National Audit Office to look into the Motability charity after the row erupts

May 2018 Parliamentary Committee says the way the scheme is run needs a complete overhaul and that it “may have lost its way”

September 2018 National Audit Office announces it will be scrutinising the Motability Scheme

October 2018 Motability Operations says it will give £500m to its charity arm, which offers grants to disabled people to access equipment

December 2018 Government spending watchdog reveals that Motability boss Mike Betts was in line for an extra £2m bonus on top of already “generous” pay

December 2018 Motability CEOMike Betts announces he will be stepping down from his role ‘no later’ than May 2020

January 2019 A group of MPs criticise Motability’s commercial arm for failing to disclose a £2m bonus package paid to its chief executive

January 2019 Motability’s charity arm vows to use a £400m donation to dish out more grants to disabled people so that they can afford better equipment

January 2019 Committee asks Treasury to confirm £888m of tax exemptions provided to the Motability Scheme

April 2019 Commercial arm of the Motability Scheme appoints a new chairman after Neil Johnson departs

February 2019 Motability Scheme told it must ‘stop making excuses’ and start being more transparent as part of the ongoing inquiry

June 2019 Motability Scheme vows to reduce its reserves and pledge millions to support disabled individuals and their families, hinting at reduced prices and more suitable equipment for end-users

July 2019 Motability publishes full governance review and pledges to run things differently moving forward

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Joe Peskett

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