LABOUR councillors have accused a Tory cabinet colleague of "breathtaking arrogance" after he accepted £7,500 to chair a committee that meets just four times a year.

Melvin Cohen, cabinet member for planning and environmental protection, will receive the extra income for chairing the Constitutional Review Committee - a task previously performed at no cost to taxpayers.

The award has not yet been formally agreed, but is expected to be rubber stamped at the next Barnet Council meeting, on September 8.

Mr Cohen, who last year received allowances of £26,771, will now receive £34,909 a year - a rise of 30 per cent.

Alison Moore, leader of the Labour group, said: "This is breathtaking arrogance.

"It is a committee that meets a handful of times a year and the position has never attracted an additional allowance in the past, so why on earth, at a time of recession and belt-tightening, do we see the Tories accepting yet another special responsibility allowance that amounts to one councillor being paid more than £600 per hour?

"On what grounds can they justify this?"

Mr Cohen stressed it was the Independent Review Panel, not him, who decided to grant the annual award based on the "size and intricacy" of the job.

Mr Cohen said: "Each committee meeting entails reading through masses of paper, double-sided and in small print.

"Each committee involves three or four hours of reading and preparatory work.

"If you accept the principle of reasonable remuneration then surely this significantly increased burden should be remunerated.

"When would be the right time? The recession is anticipated to continue for some time yet, but the work burden continues apace uninfluenced by the recession."