A plea for Weymouth town councillors to forgo their £1,000 a year allowance has failed at the first hurdle.

Green councillor Graham Lambert told the first meeting of the town council that he was prepared to give up his allowance and tried to persuade others to do the same.

“The council tax set for this area and Dorset Council is one of the highest in the UK and that includes people who are working but have to make use of food banks, and families who have children who suffer hunger in the holidays when they can’t get support at school.”

He said many electors had told him that they did not believe councillors should get an allowance and should volunteer their time for free.

He said if all the councillors gave up their allowance it would save £29,000 a year and said that most councillors could catch a bus to meetings which, at most, would cost £250 a year.

“I personally won’t accept this allowance. We could set up a community chest for unclaimed allowances …we need to think about the message we are sending to taxpayers,” he said.

Labour councillor Kate Wheller said it was up to individuals who felt they could afford to donate the allowance to do so – but there were many who needed it. She said, for most town councillors £1,000 would not cover the majority of costs.

She said for some councillors there would be a loss of earnings while attending to council business, others would need to employ a carer for children or elderly relatives to attend. She said here was also the expense of postage, printing, telephones, computers and transport.

“If we remove the allowance we end up with wealthy people on the council who can afford to give their time…if individuals feel they can be magnanimous then do so, but for others this is very, very necessary.”

Kevin Brookes (Con) said he backed much of Cllr Wheller’s views: “If you don’t want it, don’t. It’s a personal choice but I don’t think it’s fair to make others feel guilty or uncomfortable.”

He said his solution would be to cut the number of councillors – possibly by 50 per cent.

“We might be one of the biggest town councils in the country but do we really need 29 councillors?” he said.

Cllr Christine James (Lib Dem) said that with her work as a driving instructor the number of meetings she was expected to attend would far exceed the £1,000 allowance in loss of earnings alone.

“I will have no shame in accepting my allowance because I know I will do a good job for the people who elected me,” she said.

Tia Roos (Lab) said she would also be accepting the allowance, because she needed to: “Not all of us are privileged or retired. To be honest the £1,000 just doesn’t cover it.”

The council accepted the £1,000 a year allowance recommendation with Greens Jon Orrell and Graham Herbert abstaining.

An additional £2,000 will be made available, shared between the mayor and deputy mayor, to cover the costs of their additional duties which are expected to average 4-5 appointments a week.