COUNCIL tax payers in Darwen will foot the bill for taxis for the town council mayor – to protect the mayoral chain.

Darwen Town Council agreed that when the mayor has to pay for transport to a civic function, he or she is allowed to claim it back on expenses.

It came after Lib Dem councillor Paul Browne questioned a £47.50 payment to Labour mayor Eileen Entwistle on Tuesday.

When the council was set up in 2009, councillors were told they were not allowed to claim expenses. But it has now been decided that the mayor can do so in exceptional circumstances.

Coun Browne said: “This council said when it was formed that the mayor would not cost any money to the council tax payers of Darwen. I want to know why has it been sanctioned that the mayor has been paid £47.50 up to now for taxis?”

Coun Entwistle replied: “I do not drive so I was walking about town with the chain in my bag and it was felt it was not safe.”

Council deputy chairman Trevor Maxfield said he was contacted by borough chief Harry Catherall who was worried about the safety of the chain.

The chain, thought to be worth more than £30,000, features the original Darwen Council crest that featured on the original chains made in 1879 and now used by Blackburn with Darwen after the borough chain was stolen in 1980.

A new chain was sourced by former councillor Tony Melia after the borough refused to return the town’s chain five years ago.

When not in use, the chain is kept securely in Darwen Town Hall.

Lib Dem councillor Roy Davies quipped: “If Harry’s that bothered they should give us our old chain back!”

Coun Simon Huggill said: “As mayor, Eileen does things the rest of us do not and I think we have a moral responsibility to make sure she gets home safely.

“I would hate to think of Eileen stuck somewhere because this council will not pay for a taxi.”

Coun Entwistle added: “There are taxis I use personally and taxis I use as mayor and I would never dream of filing an expenses claim for a personal taxi. I try to get lifts where possible but sometimes I can’t.”