THE bill for councillors’ expenses has dropped from last year, new figures show.

In the 12 months up to April 2014, the borough’s 51 councillors — plus former councillor Joanne Columbine — spent £578,431 of taxpayers’ cash compared with £590,133 in the previous 12 months.

The latest figures reveal £400,488 went on a basic allowance, with 49 representatives each receiving £7,949 for giving up their time to help constituents, with three others receiving less.

A further £175,826 was paid out for "special responsibilities", which is generally in exchange for councillors attending specialist meetings such as healthcare and town planning, and taking on extra casework.Some £2,117 went on travel and subsistence, though only four councillors claimed from that pot.

They were: council leader Cllr Mike Connolly, Cllr Jane Black, Cllr David Jones and Cllr Tamoor Tariq, to pay to get to various council-related meetings.

When Labour took control of the town hall in May 2011, it pledged to reduce the expenses bill for councillors and has banned travel expenses for journeys within the borough and reduced the "special responsibility" claims by almost £60,000.

Council leader Mike Connolly led by example by reducing his own pay from £33,123 to £30,339.

However, opposition parties want Labour to go further.

Previously, Bury Conservatives leader, Cllr Iain Gartside, has urged Labour to reduce the number of councillors by one third in a move that could save £195,000 annually.

Bury Lib Dems representative, Cllr Tim Pickstone, has backed a proposal to investigate the idea.

Labour have not ruled out the move, but its councillors have identified potential flaws.

A party spokesman said a review of wards and boundaries would have to be carried out and that in itself would take time and cost money.

He added: “We are suggesting to Government that a root-and-branch review of democratic representation should be undertaken across Government and local authorities. We cannot do it in isolation.”

He added: “It’s an idea we should look at, but it isn’t as simple as proposing it one day and bringing it in the next.”