DUDLEY’S deputy leader says the decision to increase pay should rest with an independent body not the councillors themselves.

Deputy leader of the council, cllr Les Jones, says it would be a fairer system to have a national independent tribunal responsible for determining the salary and wage rises of local elected representatives.

His comments come a week after Dudley councillors awarded themselves a whopping 25 per cent pay rise - much to the anger of council tax payers who are struggling to hold onto their jobs and pay their bills.

Cllr Jones, cabinet member for regeneration and ward councillor for Pedmore and Stourbridge East, told the News: “We took the decision at the worst possible time and on the back of the sleaze surrounding MP’s expenses.

“The timing stinks - this should be taken out of our hands.”

He said “as a matter of principle he would have preferred” for the issue of pay not to have reared its head in the current climate.

But he added: “It’s been nine years since there was a review of the basic allowance.”

He said the opportunity to increase pay and allowances only arises every three years and on the last couple of occasions councillors did not give themselves a rise.

He added: “I suspect people will be quite upset with the idea but my response now is to make sure we can show the people that we deliver value for money.”

At the meeting on July 13, 41 councillors opted to increase their basic pay from £7,419 to £9,300 - backdated to April 2009; 20 voted against and one member abstained.

They also approved generous rises for those with extra responsibilities - such as the leader, who will receive £23,250 (up from £19,080) from April 2010, and the deputy - cllr Les Jones - who will receive £11,625.

Cabinet members will each receive £6,975; cllr David Sparks - leader of the opposition party - will get £4,650; while cllr Tim Wright, chairman of the development control committee, will earn £6,975.

Cllr Colin Banks, vice chairman of the committee, will receive £2,325; while area committee and other commitee chairmen (such as select committee) will each pick up £4,650, with vice-chairmen taking home £1,550 - all on top of their basic salaries.