SENIOR Tory members have turned Barnet Council into “a laughing stock” following their decision to up their allowances, according to the only group member not to vote for the policy.

Councillor Kate Salinger, who abstained from the vote on increasing the allowances of cabinet members, met with a senior Government figure to discuss the fall-out from the controversial plans.

The Coppetts ward councillor was stripped of her major committee roles as a result of not voting for Conservative policy, but was invited to tea with secretary of state for communities and local government, MP Eric Pickles.

Cllr Salinger attended the meeting with her husband, former council leader, Councillor Brian Salinger, and said Mr Pickles was “horrified” with the allowance increases for some party members, which came into effect on Sunday.

She said: “He just wanted to offer me his support. He told me it was dreadful and should have been a free vote.

“It was nice to meet him, and I think he was genuine. I think he thinks Barnet has lost the plot, which of course they have.

“I have been speaking to many other local government officers and they are asking me what on earth is going on. Barnet is a laughing stock.

“What they have done is not rational in the current economic climate.”

Councillor Brian Salinger, who lost the leadership in 2006, has gone on the record to say he would also have abstained from the vote, had he not been ill and unable to attend the meeting.

But he has remained vocal in his support of his wife and in the condemnation of the move by his Tory party colleagues.

He said: “[Former council leader] Victor Lyon, myself and Mike Freer, worked very hard to raise the profile of Barnet in the local government world.

“We had taken Barnet to a level where it was regarded as one of the best local authorities in the country, but that has been undone in one night's work, and that is what saddens me.”