JUST three out of 51 Southend councillors signed up for a voluntary scheme to help fund cash-strapped youth services out of their allowances.

Independent spokesman Martin Terry and Labour members Ian Gilbert and Margaret Borton were the only politicians to promise up to 10 per cent of their council allowances to the Connexions scheme.

The one-off cash pot was set up with overwhelming support earlier this year after a separate move to cut allowances was blocked.

Mr Terry, who came up with the idea, said he hoped enough councillors would have contributed to pay the wage of an extra youth worker or bankroll some new equipment.

But the lack of support means only £1,770 has been deposited into the scheme so far.

Mr Terry said: “I am bitterly disappointed. I wanted us to cut our allowances to reflect the other cuts across the board. That wasn’t approved, so this was the next best option. To have so little support is shocking.”

Labour leader Ian Gilbert added: “I was expecting more people to sign up for it. As it is, there is very little that could be done with such a small amount of money.”

Councillors’ allowances, which range from £8,000 to more than £35,000 a year, depending on roles and duties, are decided by an independent panel.

The rules ban councillors from making their own cuts or increases to the figures, scuppering Mr Terry’s bid to introduce a 10 per cent reduction when the authority was finalising its £15.5million cuts package in February.

Mr Terry’s alternative idea for the youth services cash pot was overwhelmingly voted through by 30 colleagues after funding for the Connexions scheme was cut by £747,000 in April. However, both Mr Terry and Mr Gilbert now say they will withdraw their donations and give them to schools or youth projects in their respective wards instead.

The moves were dismissed as a political “stunt” by Tory council leader Nigel Holdcroft, who pointed out councillors’ allowances had subsequently been frozen by the independent panel.

His own special allowance of £33,208, which he receives for being leader and chairman of the appointments committee, was cut by about £3,900.

He said: “Many councillors choose to financially support charities and other good causes, but without attempting to publicise the fact.”

Graham Longley, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrats, added: “I already donate a lot more than 10 per cent of my allowance to several causes. I believe councillors should be left to make their own decisions on how their money is used.”