Members of Birmingham City Council are set to vote themselves an above-inflation pay rise of five per cent.

The proposed increase in allowances and special responsibility payments will bring the annual salary of council leader Mike Whitby to #67,000 and that of his deputy, Paul Tilsley, to #54,000.

The 2006/07 pay deal is being proposed by an independent remuneration panel, which warned that the workload placed on councillors by the devolution of local authority services is increasing and might lead to higher salaries in future.

The panel is recommending a 4.8 per cent increase in the basic allowance, given to all 120 city councillors, bringing the payment to #15,148 - based on a three-day working week.

Special responsibility allowances paid to council leaders, cabinet members, committee chairmen and the leaders of opposition groups, will rise by five per cent, which the panel said was in line with the average adult wage rate for the top ten per cent of full-time earners in Birmingham.

The proposed increases are more than twice the two per cent wage rise the Government has recommended for local authority workers.

Birmingham cabinet members will receive #44,000-a-year, scrutiny committee chairmen #36,000 and regulatory committee chairmen between #26,000 and #30,000.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of the opposition Labour group, will see his salary rise to #28,000.

Official Government calculations of inflation range from 1.9 per cent to 2.4 per cent a year.

However, the panel said it was basing its recommendations on average wage rises in the Birmingham area.

The panel also urged the council to undertake a review of the demands placed on back-bench councillors to determine whether it was satisfied the role could be carried out effectively in three days per week.

Panel chairman Ray Way said devolution of council services to district committees was at an early stage, but the effect could be to increase the amount of work expected to be undertaken by councillors.

Mr Way added: "The council needs to keep the demands generated by the devolution process under continuous review to ensure that a sensible balance is maintained between the workload placed on individual councillors and their other responsibilities, be they business or private.

"Birmingham is best served if the job of a councillor is seen to be attractive and candidates are drawn from a wide cross-section of the community and from all walks of life."

One of the panel's key objectives is to promote a healthy democracy by removing financial disadvantage as a barrier to people from a wide range of backgrounds standing for election.

At the moment 75 of the 120 Birmingham councillors have employment outside of their council duties, while 45 are unemployed or retired.

A survey found councillors with full time jobs spend an average of 29 hours a week on council business, while those without a job devote an average 44 hours a week to council duties.

The panel said it viewed with concern the possibility that backbench councillors might soon be compelled to spend more than 26 hours a week on council business. This would be a deterrent to potential new councillors and further limit the sectors of the population from whom candidates could be drawn, it claimed.

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