NEW figures revealed that more than £20,000 has been spent on paying for Taunton Deane Borough Council's elected members' broadband. 

The system allows for each councillor to claim up to £20 a month for WiFi, a scheme that currently 34 of the 55 members are enjoying. 

The council spends, on average, around £6,000 a year on broadband for councillors in their own homes. 

TDBC has paid £20,659.79 since 2015. 

The prices per month range from £9.99 - £20. 

In 2015, £5,186.78 was spent on 32 councillors. 

In 2016, £6,763.56 was spent on the current 34 councillors, and £6,967.56 in 2017. 

So far in 2018, £1,741.89 has been paid. 

Of the 34 councillors, 21 are elected Conservatives, nine Liberal Democrats, two independents, one Labour and one UKIP

Taunton Deane Borough Council has been approached for comment. 

The council says that the councillors are 'reliant' on the WiFi to conduct council business, but that they are free to use it for personal use, as well. 

A TDBC spokesperson said: “The council decided to support the introduction of a Broadband Allowance with the advent of electronic communication about 15 years ago. This meant that councillors could have broadband installed in their houses at nil or very low monthly cost to allow laptops to be issued and e-mail exchanges to begin. The allowance was set at a maximum of £20 per month which is still the current rate.

"The allowance has resulted in all councillors gaining access to the council’s e-mail system – which has proven to be extremely beneficial with instant written contact rather than the letters and memos that had had to be drafted and typed in the past.

"The continued operation of the council’s e-mail system with councillors is still totally reliant on them having broadband at home – which is available for private as well as council business. The vast majority of councillors opt to use their own laptops or PC’s to receive and send messages rather than have a second laptop purely for council business. 

"In recognition of this, the council has continued to make the Broadband Allowance available. Not every councillor claims the allowance and, because prices for broadband have come down over the years, very few are able to claim the maximum rate. The usual monthly allowance is in the region of £15 or less.”

While the council says the WiFi is necessary for them, the TaxPayer's Alliance wonders how far this logic can spread. 

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance: 

"While many now feel that wifi is one of life's essentials, especially if they have seen teenagers glued to their phones, it's not fair for taxpayers to foot the bill for councillors' internet connections.

"Councillors also need to drink water to survive, but it doesn't stand to reason that we should fork out to pay their water bills! This is all money that should be kept in peoples' own pockets, even if only to help them pay the increasingly unaffordable council tax bills."