A MOTION calling for a cap on Barnet councillors' allowances has been quashed by the Tories.

The motion, submitted at last night's council meeting by Labour councillor Geof Cooke, proposed restrictions to the practice of individuals claiming more than one special responsibility allowance (SRA).

Councillors receive SRAs for additional work beyond their basic job, such as sitting on committees.

Some local authorities limit councillors to claiming one SRA, but in March 2007 Barnet councillors voted to stack up them up, allowing some members to earn thousands of pounds more.

Yet Government guidelines in 2003 urged authorities to be cautious about issuing SRAs, stating that the "local electorate may rightly question whether [these SRAs] are justified".

In Barnet, 84 per cent of councillors claimed additional allowances in 2008.

Labour group leader Alison Moore said: "We want the cap from 2000 reinstated, which would only allow councillors to claim twice their basic rate.

"Many councillors now receive multiple times their basic salary and it is getting out of hand.

"It is stretching too much and taking up considerable amounts of public money."

The Conservatives revised the motion with an amendment proposed by council leader Mike Freer.

The Tory amendment stated: "Council believes that the setting of allowances in an open, democratic meeting, which requires each councillor to make their own opinions clear, is the most transparent system.

"Council notes that the December 2007 report by the Labour-dominated Councillors Commission supported significant rises in allowances.

"Council notes that the level of councillor allowances are recommended by an independent resource panel, which considers the role, duties and responsibilities of members."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Freer said: "The Government have made it abundantly clear that councillors should be recompensed for the duties they take on.

"The alternative is we return to the bad old days of having only those who could afford to be councillors standing for election: the retired, the independently wealthy and trade unionists, who were given paid time to attend council."

The Labour motion also called for Barnet Council to lobby Government for a law change to allow councillors’ pay to be set by an independent panel.

At the moment, councillors have the freedom to accept, amend or reject recommendations by the Independent Review Panel.

However, the Conservatives argued that "creating an unelected, unregulated committee to decide on remuneration would be a retrospective step".

An amendment to the motion by Ms Moore proposed posting individual members' allowances online.

Currently there is only an overview available, which outlines how the allowance scheme works.

When approached by the Times Series on what he thought about this idea, Mr Freer said: "No reason why not, we've done it in the past."

The motion came days after Brian Coleman, Conservative assembly member for Barnet and Camden, was forced to publish his expenses by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, after being the only one of 25 members to refuse.

In 2007 to 2008, Mr Coleman spent more than £8,000 in taxi fares – more than the other 24 members put together. The year before, he notched up over £10,000 in fares.