A motion to freeze Central Bedfordshire councillors' allowances for 12 months to save £50,000 and spend it "helping people less fortunate", such as by improving free school meals, has been defeated.

Independent councillor John Baker’s motion to sacrifice any allowance increase this year was described as “politically motivated” by the Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association and former Central Bedfordshire Council leader James Jamieson, and defeated after a vote at a full council meeting.

Cllr Baker had asked: “This council agrees it would be inappropriate for any inflationary increase in members’ allowances in the current climate of high inflation, which councillors should forgo for 2022/23.

“It’s a five per cent increase without a specific job, that’s an extra £575 a year,” he said. “For a scrutiny committee chairman that’s a further £1,131 annually, a deputy cabinet member £900 a year, and a cabinet member £1,557.

“And the member with the title deputy leader will receive a taxpayer handout of an additional £1,819.

“This motion is straightforward. We recognise hard times and reject any increase in our allowances this financial year.

“Not a single member of this council will be a penny worse off and we save £50,000, which we could invest in helping people less fortunate than ourselves.”

Independent councillor Hayley Whitaker seconded the motion, saying: “In these difficult times, we need to lead by example. It seems vulgar to me to even consider taking an extra five per cent rise in my allowance.

“We could put that £50,000 as a contribution towards paying extra for our children to have better free school meals.”

However, independent councillor Victoria Harvey said: “I’m conscious of the number of people who cut down on their work to be a councillor and struggle to pay the bills, so they can give the time.

“The whole point of this allowance is to allow you the time. We need to give anyone who wants to stand up for their local residents and do their best the opportunity to do it.

“It’s perfectly easy if you feel comfortable enough to give that money back to the council or to any charity, but I certainly know people for whom every single penny counts.”

Cllr Jamieson, a company director, said: “Members’ allowances are generally agreed for the term of the council and linked to officers’ pay, which is a common practice in other councils.

“The way to achieve a successful and functioning democracy is to ensure everyone can access it.

“We want that wide range of candidates prepared to give up their time. It’s not pay. Many give up paid earnings to have time to become a councillor.

“It’s part of a series of motions the opposition has brought forward seeking to attack the idea of allowances for councillors. It’s politically motivated. I don’t believe it’s right to restrict councillors to those retired and wealthy.”