Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott has again defended her decision to take a 36.5 per cent increase in her allowance, despite criticism from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

In November, after recommendations in an independent review, Wiltshire Council agreed to a rise that saw Coun Scott’s allowance go from £37,335 to £52,227.

Allowances to Cabinet members also increased by at least 22 per cent, rising from £15,101 to £18,433 a year, and councillors’ basic allowances have gone up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.

Mr Pickles felt this was the wrong decision, especially as it had made 252 staff redundant weeks earlier.

He said: “It doesn’t matter that she has done marvellous things and it is a very good council, when times are hard you have to lead from the front and I expect all councils to do that.”

Coun Scott said she was unmoved by his comments.

She said: “I’m sorry it has been brought up again. I will be taking the allowance, as will other councillors. I would have preferred Eric to have focused on other things, I would have liked to have shown him around the new Corsham campus, I would have liked him to have met some of the 1,000 apprentices we have here.”

The council’s deputy leader and Cabinet leader for highways John Thomson also questioned Mr Pickles’ intervention on parking fees.

He said: “Mr Pickles’ stance regarding car parking is very interesting but if the Government weren’t cutting £22m from our budget (over the next four years) we might have had more freedom.

“As the council are the ones dealing with the day to day, we can’t get too worried by everything that’s said.”

A motion to overturn allowance increases will be debated at a full council meeting at County Hall, Trowbridge, at 10.30am on February 4. Tax payer Paul Gaunt, who launched a 2,600-signature petition against the increase, will hold a demonstration outside the hall, from 10am.