A VETERAN council chief who says he is forced to travel first class for health reasons has made five times as many expenses claims as the rest of his colleagues combined, The News can reveal.

Between February 2016 and February 2017, councillor Paul Bettison OBE made 207 claims, compared to the 40 made by the 41 other Bracknell Forest councillors. 

The Conservative politician was the only member to travel first class on trains too, racking up £1,230.50 in fares and spending £1,229 on taxis.

Cllr Bettison said he was told to avoid standard carriages by his doctor and could not take the London Tube for health reasons.

Speaking to the News the councillor, who claimed £3,204.26 over the year, said: "I have to take first class travel because I have a letter from my GP which requires it on health grounds.

"Because I spend much of my time on business of the council in London and because of my physical condition I am not able to take a tube because I could find myself at the bottom of a set of stairs I couldn't get up. 

"There is not a day that goes by without me doing council work.

"That is why the leader gets a higher allowance. I think it would be very rare in a council not to find that."

Only ten councillors claimed any expenses back last year, with the nine other than Cllr Bettison spending £2,025.06 in total, a freedom of information request revealed.

Cllr Bettison also questioned why The News submitted the request, which is answered by tax-payer funded civil servants. 

Labour councillor Mary Temperton, the only non-Conservative on BFC, said there was a culture around expenses claiming.

She said: "When I go anywhere I never claim for coffee or food, because I figure I am going to eat or drink anyway. 

"I also take 20 per cent less than everyone else. Everything is being cut and has to reduce and reduce, so why shouldn't I? I am in a fortunate position in that I am retired and have a pension. 

"I wouldn't want anyone not to be in the council because they need support but can't get it. 

"I don't see why we can't do more on Skype though. Why do we have to be there and then claim travel expenses? 

"I do think there is a different culture where people claim for everything, and it's not my culture."