LET residents and voluntary workers help decide councillors' pay'.

That's the call from Bournemouth councillor Claire Smith ahead of tomorrow's vote on an increase of up to 36 per cent.

The Lib Dem group leader wants taxpayers, voluntary workers and public sector workers to help make decisions in future. The make-up of the three-man panel which recommended the rises will be reviewed tomorrow at a full council meeting.

The current members are: Neil Tointon, chief operating officer of Abbey Life in Holdenhurst Road; Prof Paul Curran, vice chancellor of Bournemouth University; and Barry Holt, general manager of ITW Finishing UK in Ringwood. None of them could be contacted yesterday.

Councillors will get up to a 17 per cent more, cabinet members more than 30 per cent.

Cllr Smith said: "The rise is unacceptable and we're questioning the true independence of the panel - they are mostly business people."

The panel was appointed four years ago. Bournemouth council contacted members of the partnership group Bournemouth 2026, and also selected businesses.

Government rules say the council can advertise for ordinary people to get on to the panel.

Council leader Stephen MacLoughlin said the panel was selected by council officers for their understanding of running large organisations. He added: "Their decision was sensible. I don't have any argument with it. I would welcome people from the community being members of the panel when it is constituted in future."

Labour leader Cllr Ben Grower said the panel decision was fair but he wanted the increases phased in over four years.