Following criticism from taxpayers and the Secretary of State, Cornwall councillors voted not to increase their allowances in a dramatic U-turn yesterday.

In October councillors had voted in favour of bumping up their pay packets by £2,472 a year - an inflation-busting rise of 20 per cent.

Since then the Conservative minister in charge of local government, Eric Pickles, weighed in to say that members should invest in “the darkest sunglasses they can possibly get” to shade their eyes from voters at the next election.

Packet readers were also critical of the move, especially given the council's recent decision to tax everyone of working age regardless of their ability to pay.

But yesterday (Tuesday) former council leader Alec Robertson, the current Conservative member for Helston North, tabled a motion to reverse the allowance increase.

The motion read the pay bump should be rescinded “in view of the council's difficult financial situation and the consequential adverse impacts on our staff.”

Mr Robertson was accused by Liberal Democrat councillor and mayor of Truro Rob Nolan as being “the most expensive councillor this authority has ever seen.”

Fellow Lib Dem Alex Folkes similarly lambasted the erstwhile leader when he said: “Councillor Robertson didn't bother to turn up to the last allowances debate but now, with the election in 78 days, he wants to reopen it.”

Mr Robertson noted the “personal jibes” and attacks on his character, and said the council had “plumbed new depths” during the debate.

But despite the back and forth, the consensus opinion came from councillor Mary May when she said she was “backing the motion, not the person.”

The motion was carried by 47 votes to 34. Seven members abstained.