Questions have been asked why two parish councils are able to use borough facilities for just £1 a month, while others are paying much more.

Chairman of the borough’s scrutiny committee Jim Robbins asked why West Swindon and St Andrews parish councils are able to use the Waterside park depot to keep their own grass-cutting and street cleaning equipment, for a peppercorn rent while others have to pay market price.

The Labour councillor contrasted the deals the two parishes have with that of South Swindon Parish Council, which rents its depot space in Techno Trading Estate and pays thousands of pounds more.

Its spending statement for June said it paid £7,500 for five months use of the depot this summer. That would work out at £18,000 a year. Its accounts say it spent £1,000 of materials fitting out the depot.

Coun Robbins said: “With the council so strapped for cash is it missing a trick by not charging these two councils a market rate for its depot facilities? This is thousands of pounds the council, could be missing out on.”

But the authority says the arrangement is strictly temporary and in part caused by coronavirus restrictions.

Cabinet member for highways, maintenance and waste services Maureen Penny said: “The borough council has enabled the temporary use of parts of the Waterside depot by two parish councils as they were unable to source alternative accommodation in a timely manner due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The arrangement is temporary only for a maximum term expiring 31 March 2021 and only continues while the parish councils directly deliver Streetsmart services for Swindon residents.”

She explained: “The accommodation being utilised is not possible to let on commercial terms as it forms part of our main storage facility and would be unsuitable for sharing with anyone other than public sector partners.

She said West Swindon and St Andrews have paid for their own fencing of their compounds and they pay for services they use at the site and a separate management charge,.”

She added: “There is limited space at Waterside so those parish councils who had already secured accommodation elsewhere continued to proceed with this.”

In a statement West Swindon Parish Council said: “The parish council delivers a range of services to residents in West Swindon. It uses its own staff, vehicles and machinery for this purpose. On a short term basis the parish council has temporary use of a vehicle shed at Waterside. In common with many other parish councils, Waterside is also used for the disposal of waste and flytipping.”

St Andrews council had not responded to a request for comment as the Adver went to press.