Ministerial boxes travel by chauffeur-driven cars

The Government is still spending thousands of pounds a year on driving only ministerial briefcases around Whitehall in chauffeur-driven splendour despite a promise to get rid of ‘red boxes’ in the digital era.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by HuffPost UK has revealed £44,010 was lavished last year on ferrying documents – and no passengers – between government departments and a minister’s home, just under £3,000 more than the previous year.

In the six years since the then coalition Government promised a crackdown on wasteful spending, almost £400,000 has been spent on the practice.

Labour criticised “another broken promise” as the FOI response also revealed papers were driven around 540 times during 2016/17, or more than 4,000 times since the pledge.

But the Department for Transport pointed to how the annual cost and number of trips have been slashed by half since 2011.

So-called “despatch box movements” have long been part of Westminster culture, but ministers have been at pains to stress how they want to do things differently with the help of new technology.

The die was cast before David Cameron entered office in 2009, pledging to end “politicians swanning around in chauffeur-driven cars like they’re the royal family”.

In 2011, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of civil service reform, said the Government was moving towards paperless working, and suggested the need for hard copies rather than email was an “alibi”.

Two years ago, he signalled ministerial boxes were doomed and state-of-the-art smartphones would do the heavy lifting instead.”