THE Tory councillor stripped of her committee duties for failing to vote in favour of huge pay hikes for her party colleagues says she took the decision based on her conscience.

Coppetts ward councillor Kate Salinger last night abstained from the vote on plans for increasing the allowances of senior cabinet members and the basic rate for all councillors.

The changes were voted for by 37 of the 38 Tories present, with 22 opponents from Labour and Lib Dems and only one abstention, by Cllr Salinger.

The move will mean council leader Lynne Hillan stands to collect about an extra £20,000 a year, with cabinet member and lead councillor on the issue, Brian Coleman, looking set to earn a salary comparable to that of the Prime Minister when combining his Greater London Authority and London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority allowances.

But Cllr Salinger, said: “I did what I felt was right.

“I knew there were going to be consequences and I was warned against doing it. But as far as I am concerned, I voted with my conscience for what I felt is right.

“It is not easy to vote against your party colleagues, but I didn't even vote against it, I just abstained.”

Cllr Salinger has now been stripped of her role as chairman of the childrens services overview and scrutiny sub-committee and the appeals committee, her position as vice-chairman on the Chipping Barnet residents forum and the licensing committee, and her membership on the corporate parenting advisory panel and the policy and performance overview and scrutiny committee.

She will only remain as a member of the council and the annual council.

Cllr Salinger said the Tory rules state every member of the party should vote in favour of all group policy matter decisions “unless it is a matter of conscience”.

She added: “It was a matter of my conscience, but that wasn't accepted by the party officers.

“My conscience wasn't enough to qualify me for that clause, and that does upset me a bit.

“The Government is telling members not to do this, at a time when many people are suffering and officers are being asked to cut budgets.”

The councillor, who is the wife of former council leader Brian Salinger, said she would not consider standing down from the party.

She said: “I am a Conservative and I am following national Government policy, it is the council who are out of step.

“I had the choice to follow national policy or local policy, and I chose national. I couldn't vote for an increase in pay when public sector staff face a pay freeze, there are redundancies in many departments and people in the wider community are losing their jobs and having wages cut.

“It is not the time to put money up.”