A row has broken out among Salford councillors after Conservative members were prevented from hiring a political assistant by the ruling Labour group.

Last month, the town hall's political groups were asked to approve the hiring of advisers on salaries of up to £34,985 after hearing they were legally entitled to hire one apiece.

Salford city mayor and leader of the Labour group Paul Dennett raised concerns about spending nearly £70,000 during the coronavirus pandemic - and after years of government-imposed austerity measures.

The motion was tabled and supported by the Conservative group, which later advertised for a graduate to join its team on a wage of £17,364.

Tory members made the point that sum is half the salary of Mr Dennett’s mayoral assistant.

Councillor Les Turner, leader of the Conservative group on Salford council

The decision was brought back to a full council meeting this week after it was revealed all councillors had to pass a formal resolution supporting the principle of political assistants before they could be appointed.

In order to force the vote, the council - which is made up of 51 Labour councillors, nine Conservatives and one Independent - had to agree to suspend a rule within its constitution which prevents a decision from being reversed for six months.

Before the vote was held on Wednesday, Mr Dennett said: “We’ve had 10 years of cuts worth £211m, and Covid has also impacted our budget.

“I thank the chief executive for making it clear that this full council is entitled to an in principle vote on this matter.

“I think this is a fantastic example of democracy in action. It’s really important this full council applies the law correctly.”

The meeting heard the salary paid to Mr Dennett’s assistant is allowed under separate mayoral legislation.

Councillor Les Turner, leader of the Conservative group, criticised the mayor for stopping a young person from taking ‘a first step on the employment ladder’.

“I know the Labour group was concerned that it would put his group at a disadvantage, this of course is complete nonsense, he has an army of help at his disposal,” he said. 

“It seems the leader of the Labour group is happy to take £34,000-plus through austerity and Covid for his PA, but wants to use Covid in order to stop my group from having one.”

After a vote to suspend part of the constitution was agreed, all councillors - aside from the Conservative members - voted against plans to employ political advisers.