THE Mayor of Barnet charged the taxpayer almost £400 for a single taxi fare to a VIP dinner last year.

Councillor Brian Coleman, also London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, racked up the fee of £396 for his journey to and from a Lord Mayor's banquet in November.

The return fare was £104 plus a service charge of £28, but the staggering cost of £246 was incurred because Mr Coleman left the cab driver waiting outside for five hours.

With VAT it came close to £400.

Mr Coleman is chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, which runs the London Fire Brigade, and the cab fare was uncovered by a Freedom of Information request by the Fire Brigade Union.

The revelation has prompted calls for his resignation from the union.

Ben Sprung, Fire Brigades Union regional organiser, said the claim was "excessive and unacceptable" and Mr Coleman had been "reckless with public money".

He added: “I doubt very much if he would have kept a cab waiting for so long if he was paying it himself. It would not be acceptable behaviour for a member of staff to charge to keep a cab waiting for five hours.

“Mr Coleman has been very quick to criticise others about wasting public money. In our view if he does not resign he should be removed, precisely what he would demand of others.”

In 2007 Mr Coleman voted against paying Fire Brigade cleaners the living wage of £7.20 an hour.

He said at the time: "Paying London Fire Station cleaners the London living wage of £7.20, as Labour's Val Shawcross suggested, is just ridiculous."

He provoked controversy the same year when it emerged that he had spent more than £10,000 in a one year period on taxis.

When contacted by the Fire Brigades Union over the latest revelation Mr Coleman replied by email: “I never comment on such matters.”

When contacted by the Times Series for a comment he hung up the phone.

Mr Coleman has refused to speak to the Times Series since we uncovered he had been granted £10,000 to cover legal fees to face the council's standards committee over a claim of misconduct.