A VETERAN councillor has been slammed for claiming almost £1,000 in travel expenses during the coronavirus pandemic…when no other elected members asked for a single penny.

James MacLaren, who represents Bridge of Weir, Bishopton and Langbank, was repaid almost £970 by Renfrewshire Council during 2020/21, despite people being told to stay at home and limit their trips out for much of the year.

Councillor Carolann Davidson, of Labour, has demanded an explanation from the former Conservative group leader and queried why the local authority had continued to reimburse him.

“It’s not been a normal year and there have been massive financial strains on the council, so I would really like to know how James MacLaren can justify claiming nearly £1,000 in expenses when not one other councillor has claimed as much as a penny,” said Councillor Davidson, who represents Paisley East and Central.

“We were in lockdown for most of the year, so £969.65 is shocking in my mind.

“I’d like to know how he can justify that and why the council continues to just pay it out.”

Councillor MacLaren, who was first elected in 2012 but sat on Renfrew Town Council prior to that, has said his claims were in line with council guidelines and represented his commitment to his constituents.

He has tended to claim much more for travel than his counterparts over the years.

During 2019/20 and 2018/29, he was repaid a total of £3,170, which was almost £1,000 more than all other councillors’ claims put together during that period.

The vast majority of elected members have opted not to claim travel expenses since being voted in four years ago.

Councillor MacLaren said: “I represent one of the largest wards in Renfrewshire and I believe my work shows I work hard all year round for my constituents, as I travel across the area.

“I will always be open and transparent in relation to any expense queries and fully appreciate the concerns raised by Councillor Davidson, especially given the devastating effect on so many individuals during the pandemic.”