The differences between what councillors in different authorities are paid for special responsibilities has left some people in the borough scratching their heads.

And there have been calls on the panel which makes suggestions as to what Swindon’s councillors are allowed to explain its recommendations.

Last week, the council’s cabinet approved the recommendations of an independent panel which suggested that councillors allowances shouldn’t be increased from the current £8,364 except in line with the officers’ pay increase, if any – and that only the deputy leader, currently councillor Russell Holland, should have the special responsibility allowance increased.

The recommendations still have to be voted for by councillors at next month’s meeting.

At the meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee, chairman Bob Wright said: “If you look at the columns comparing this authority’s allowances with others Swindon is about average – but the allowances in some other councils are quite absurd.”

In Bath and North East Somerset for example, while the standard allowance is similar to Swindon’s the leader’s allowance is £6,000 higher at £31,000 while the opposition leader’s allowance is £5,500 lower at £428. Similarly, chairmen of some committees at Luton council receive a special allowance of £2,500 nearly £4,000 less than Swindon’s receive.

Coun Wright asked: “Are we somewhere in the middle just because some other councils are bringing the average down?

“What are the criteria that the panel are using? Is it just – it looks like we’re somewhere in the middle, so that’s all right?”

Facing questions was Coun Holland.

He said: “I don’t know, and I haven’t inquired. From a policy perspective, the policy is that we will agree to what the independent panel recommends – and that’s a policy I’m happy with.

“I don’t think any of us would work harder if we received more, or less hard if it was less."

Leader of the Labour opposition group, Jim Grant, found himself in agreement with the Conservative deputy leader.

He said: “I have some sympathy for Coun Holland here.

"The fact is there are no national criteria, so every council has its own independent remuneration panel, and as we can see they’re all coming up with different answers.

“I think this should be taken out of the hands of local councils – there should be a national guideline – we are doing broadly the same work under the same pressures.”

Committee member Carol Shelley said she would like to understand better how the panel, which is chaired by Keith Strickland, came to its conclusions.

Coun Holland said: "You can ask the panel to one of these meetings.” Coun Wright added: “I still think this is a cabinet or council decision to be scrutinised.”