A HAMPSHIRE council is drawing up plans to axe one in five of its members in a bid to save almost £80,000 a year.

The number of district councillors in the New Forest will drop from 60 to 48 if the cost-cutting move is given the go-ahead.

The proposed reduction has been welcomed by the TaxPayers' Alliance, which wants other local authorities to do the same.

Chloe Westley, the pressure group's campaign manager, said parish councils were already providing more than enough support for residents.

She added: "By recognising structural inefficiency and implementing practical ways address it, some faith can be restored that councils are working in the best interest of taxpayers."

The ruling Tory group says it wants to bring membership and ward sizes into line with similar-sized councils elsewhere in the UK.

If the scheme goes ahead the annual bill for members' allowances and expenses - currently about £500,000 - will drop by £78,000.

Cllr David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said he had spent more than four years pressing for a reduction in the number of members.

He said: "When I became leader I was warned that the Conservatives would trash my ideas - and finally they end up implementing them."

If the scheme is approved it will result in fewer members covering larger areas.

The average councillor currently represents 2,367 electors. Under the proposals the figure will rise by 662 to 3,029 - a 28 per cent increase.

Critics claim a reduction in the number of councillors would result in unelected council officers becoming less accountable.

The proposals will be discussed by the cabinet on February 7 but the Local Government Boundary Commission for England will have the final say.

No changes will be implemented before the next local government elections in the Forest in 2019.