BASILDON Council’s leader has hit back at claims the Conservatives are “giving themselves a pay rise” amid the cost of living crisis.

Councillors will vote on plans this week to increase the overall budget for special responsibility allowances from £138,000 to £178,000 – a 29 per cent increase.

The extra £40,000 will be used to cover the expenses of senior councillors, being split between the ten cabinet members including leader and deputy.

It comes as the council is set to revert back to a leader and cabinet model, having moved to a a committee system of governance in May of 2017.

Labour group leader Maryam Yaqub dubbed the move a “pay rise” at a time when residents are struggling to pay their bills.

“Inflation has risen by nine per cent and the Bank of England governor has warned he cannot stop it from going as high as ten per cent,” she said.

“This is the highest rate of inflation we’ve seen in 40 years, and we are on the verge of an ‘apocalyptic’ rise in global food prices.

“This absolutely constitutes an emergency.”

Ms Yaqub called on Basildon Council to double the £150 council tax rebate being offered to households.

However, her request was denied.

“To make matters worse, on the same night this motion has been denied from being heard, the Conservatives are giving themselves a pay rise,” she added.

Council leader Andrew Baggott said: “It’s comparing apples and pears.

“There is a massive difference between almost £10 million and £40,000.

“We knew we would be changing the system of governance, we knew therefore there might be a small change to the responsibility allowance, and yet we still delivered a budget freezing the council tax, so the cost to the taxpayer for this change will be nil.”

He added: “Set that against a proposal that would strip £10 million of the reserves, potentially putting the council into a precarious position, so you can have a publicity stunt for just £150 to each person, which is only a week or two’s worth of shopping.”