COUNCILLORS in Swindon should not be ‘paid’ and should carry out their duties for free, and only be able to claim out-of-pocket expenses according to UKIP activist and former candidate for the council Martin Costello.

But The council believes that the money its members receive is good value for the work they put in – and that given the responsibilities they have the basic allowance of £7,600 worked out as little more than the minimum wage.

In a written question to the council Mr Costello said: “I believe that the ‘annual allowance’ is an extreme waste of money that cannot be justified. I propose that the system should be changed so that councillors may only claim for expenses by providing receipts etc. Will the cabinet investigate implementing my proposed money saving system? I suggest the money saved could be directed towards combating the rising levels of homeless in the town.”

In a written response, leader of the council David Renard said all local authorities were instructed by law to make a basic allowance to all its elected members.

He added: “The purpose of the allowance is to ensure that the widest possible range of residents can serve as councillors, not just to those with independent means.

“Evidence collected by the Independent Remuneration Panel, showed that, on average, councillors are devoting more than 20 hours a week to council business, which is the equivalent of studying for a part-time degree.

For taking responsibility for serving over 220,000 people some of whom have the most complex or harrowing needs, for being corporate parents responsible for the welfare of all children in the borough, for setting a revenue budget of over £135m, of overseeing an organisation that quite literally provides services from birth to death, most councillors receive little more than the national minimum wage. That is good value for money.”

Mr Costello who stood for UKIP in the Liden, Eldene and Park South ward last May, coming third with 211 votes, was not satisfied with he answer.

He said: “I believe that if people genuinely want to help and make a difference in their community they would do this work free of charge with of course the right to claim any expenses that may occur while undertaking their councillor duties.

“I am very disappointed that the Council Leader has not taken my cost cutting idea seriously. We are looking at an annual figure close to £400,000. This sum of money could make a huge difference to Swindon such as reversing the decline of the town centre. It may not technically come from the same pot but this could fund up to 20 police officers in the town to start patrolling the streets which is desperately needed.”

There are 57 councillors in Swindon - the annual basic allowance was raised for this year to 8,384, and will remain the same for 2019/2020.

The cost of the basic allowance annually is £477,888