A Watford councillor who suggested cutting the salary of the town’s mayor by more than £13,000 has been described as a "shyster".

Labour councillor Jagtar Singh Dhindsa proposed slashing the mayor’s salary from £65,738 to £52,590 to help pay for cuts in the annual budget at a full borough council meeting last night.

Councillor Dhindsa provided a list of mayors in similar authorities who earned less than Dorothy Thornhill, including those in Tower Hamlets, Salford, North Tyneside, Bedford, Mansfield, and Doncaster.

He said: "Watford has the most expensive mayor as compared to similar authorities. In fact it is well above them.

"The salary is far too high. It must reflect the reality of a non-metropolitan district council, with limited powers, lower budgets to manage and smaller populations than comparable authorities."

The mayor of Watford’s earnings are equal to the mayor of Bristol, and more than double the mayor of Torbay.

Liberal Democrat Derek Scudder accused the councillor of "déjà vu" and added: "This is someone who over the years has advocated cuts when not in power, and is happy to take increases when he was in power.

"For us to take advice from someone with that history is quite honestly astonishing. If I was asked to take advice from anybody, I wouldn’t take advice from a shyster."

Labour’s Nigel Bell asked the council’s legal officer to investigate the use of the word "shyster" and was told it was up to the chairman to decide whether the behaviour had breached proper protocol.

Chairman Steve Rackett asked councillor Scudder to apologise for using the word, which describes someone who uses unscrupulous, fraudulent, or deceptive methods in business.

Councillor Scudder said: "I thought long and hard about using it and checked the dictionary definition, and will not withdraw the word."

After the meeting Councillor Dhindsa said he would be making an official complaint.

Labour councillor Asif Khan said: "We get bluster and insults almost like UK Gold, repeats over and over again.

"The Liberals campaigned against the mayor process, yet when they are in power they are happy to take the salary. Hypocrisy.

"They resort to insults and absolute negativity when they have lost the argument."

Mayor Thornhill said: "This salary was set under Labour. This is an insult for the people of Watford who voted for the mayoral office knowing the salary and an insult to the panel who came to the decision that they did.

"Forget about me, it’s about what level of person you want as equal first citizen to the MP.

"What sort of person will come forward for the salary that you have on the table? Are we saying we want people in the public sector who are not good enough for the private sector?

"The salary is not an issue in Watford. Since I’ve been mayor we’ve saved the council millions by our prudent stewardship."

Liberal Democrat councillor Iain Sharpe said: "Labour always thought the mayor would be Labour and they haven’t quite got over that.

"The problem with the Labour group is they’ve been eating the sour grapes so long the bitterness is in their soul."

The motion was voted down.