A mayor splashed out cash from his own pocket following concerns about use of taxpayer money for council Christmas gifts.

Woodstock Town Council mayor, Nick Manby-Brown, said it was "depressing that this matter was brought up in open council" on Tuesday, January 16 in an email chain seen by the Oxford Mail.

Town councillor Sharone Parnes queried the expense in meeting papers which showed payments to two pubs, a restaurant and a butcher shop with "unclear authority for apparent use of the council's credit card".

Oxford Mail: Councillor Nick Manby-Brown.Councillor Nick Manby-Brown. (Image: Woodstock Town Council.)

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Subsequent internal email correspondence from Mr Manby-Brown stated: "In order not to embarrass the council further, and also cause possible unhappiness with out staff, I have decided to repay the £150 out of my own money.

"And I have today transferred this amount to the council's bank."

Mr Manby-Brown has invited other councillors to chip in for the presents by messaging him directly "rather than through the councillor distribution group".

But he said: "The intention of giving staff Christmas bonuses is surely to thank those who have worked on our behalf as a sign of recognition of all the hard work that has gone on in the previous year.

Oxford Mail: Councillor Sharone Parnes.Councillor Sharone Parnes. (Image: Contribution.)

"This year in particular, our staff have done incredibly well and have done remarkable work, well under the staffing budget.

"When myself and Kate (Bailey - councillor) discussed the Christmas bonus, we followed the previous year, and gave vouchers for local businesses."

Upon a challenge from Mr Parnes at the council meeting, the mayor conceded that he would move the figures to the civic budget.

But it was suggested that civic budgets are for functions and not for staff gifts or bonuses.

Oxford Mail: Councillor Kate Bailey.Councillor Kate Bailey. (Image: Woodstock Town Council)

The town council debacle comes as analysis from the Guardian found almost one in 10 councils in the UK have been subject to a corruption investigation in the past decade.

Regarding the use of public funds, Mr Parnes said at the meeting: "I'm surprised because I've never seen that before in my nine years as a councillor."

The mayor insisted: "We just followed the procedure from the previous year."

Oxford Mail: Woodstock Town Hall.Woodstock Town Hall. (Image: Oxford Mail)

Mr Parnes said: "It would be good to know the actual procedure because if it was overlooked before that doesn't mean it's Ok now.

"I was just wondering how that decision was made because it was never proposed at council and how does public money come to be given as a gift?"

We have approached Woodstock Town Council, Mr Manby-Brown and councillor Kate Bailey for comment.