POLITICIANS in Renfrewshire have been slammed for spending almost £4000 on meetings held to discuss child poverty.

The Labour-led council set up a commission in 2013 to tackle the problem which is said to affect 6,600 children in the region.

The catering bill alone came to around £100 for each of the eight gatherings held in the last year, according to figures released by the council.

Printing and media costs for a consultation which attracted around 100 responses totalled £757.

The hiring of rooms in three town halls, a local college and a charity's building set the council back a further £605.

High profile speakers were invited to give evidence to councillors, including Steve Fothergill from Sheffield Hallam University, who advises the Scottish Government.

The commission also heard from Cormac Russell of Northwestern University, Chicago, who travelled to Renfrewshire from England, as well as representatives of Citizens Advice Scotland and the University of Glasgow.

The total spent by Renfrewshire Council on the commission currently stands at £3,771.

SNP group Leader, Councillor Iain Nicolson, urged the chairman of the commission, Councillor Mike Holmes, to donate £4000 to a local food bank "as restitution".

He said: "While the purported purpose was to examine the levels of poverty in Renfrewshire its only output so far is a bill racked up for food, travel expenses and media publicity.

"Food banks were discussed while they were munching their way through expensive catering brought in from outside.

"They discussed the barriers to the unemployed, such as being able to afford the cost of a bus to get to training or their first job, while they happily claimed travel expenses.

"Money spent on media publicity while people were struggling with their energy costs and to keep the lights on.

"There was complete lack of sensitivity around this issue and everyone attending these meetings should have recognised how this would look to the wider public.

"Councillor Michael Holmes rattles on about a lack of cash and hand wringing about budget cuts yet happily spends thousands investigating the causes of poverty.

"While they were living it up in a warm council building scoffing bought in lunches, people were queuing up outside the door applying for a crisis payments from the Welfare Fund, being told no and sent to food banks.

"Cllr Holmes complained recently that the welfare fund was running out due to demand, however with the average food parcel valued at £20 this money he was happy to spend on food and expenses could have helped a lot of Renfrewshire families."

Councillor Holmes rejected the criticism and insisted the cash spent on the commission is money well spent.

He said: "Spending less than £4,000 on one of the most pressing issues facing not just Renfrewshire but the whole of the UK is an investment in my book.

"We have thousands of families struggling on the breadline. Is Councillor Nicholson saying these families are not worth it? That they don't deserve to have their voice heard? A spend of £3,771 is an investment for all those families.

"We have gathered evidence from some of the UK's leading experts on poverty and put accessibility at the very heart of the commission's workings. For too long politicians have pretended we have all the answers when the evidence is we simply do not.

"Renfrewshire Council will use the commission's recommendations to help shape the way the council and others respond to helping people escape poverty."

The council's depute leader also took a swipe at the SNP for failing to request a seat at the table.

Councillor Holmes added: "It should be also be noted that the SNP deemed this pressing issue not worthy of the party's time as the SNP group could not even be bothered to ask for representation on the commission."