Cash-strapped care workers will not be paid for travel times between appointments, after Richmond’s Conservatives refused a motion to change policy.

Under contracts with Richmond Council, staff employed to provide social care to vulnerable people in their home are only paid for the time spent there.

Leader of the opposition Councillor Stephen Knight urged the authority to ensure all social care contracts specify employees were paid for their entire working day, at no less than the London Living Wage.

Coun Knight criticised the policy as unethical and potentially illegal and said it trapped already low paid care workers into a 25 per cent reduction in their take home pay.

The motion, tabled at a council meeting on Tuesday, July 2, was turned down after 24 councillors voted for it and 26 voted against.

Tory Councillor David Marlow said: “I accept the fact that wages are not what we might wish but we are operating, our contractors are operating, in a market place and are competing. So it’s important that you get good value for money for our taxpayers.

“I think the council is doing what it can to ensure that these public servants are properly remunerated in a very difficult market.”

Council leader Lord True said the change could cost up to £5.5m and would be a major policy decision that could be problematic when sharing contracts with other councils.

He offered to discuss implications of the policy with the Liberal Democrats and have officers draw up a report on the matter.

Coun Knight said: “What we have is an administration that says what is happening is not right. Points out that it is not right in other places as well and uses that as justification to do nothing.

“Yes there will be a cost because we are not going to be exploiting our staff. Yes we can save money by exploiting staff.

“I think it is not good enough to simply say we will continue to do this. If you took this approach in the past we would still be sending children to work in factories.”