Councillors have defended the system which will see them pocket a basic allowance of almost £6,000 each for this financial year.
Crawley Borough Council Leader Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate) and Conservative leader Duncan Crow (Furnace Green) both said the allowances were necessary to ensure people from all walks of life were able to become councillors.
And they warned the roles would be dominated by wealthy and retired people if the allowances were removed.
Following last month’s local election, councillors came in for criticism on social media regarding the amount they are entitled to claim in allowances.
Writing on the Observer’s Facebook page, Wayne Edgson blasted the allowances being paid to Cllr Crow for what he called a “voluntary” role and added: “Being a local councillor is not a full-time job – particularly when you are in opposition.”
Cllr Crow said: “While the payment of allowances to councillors is never going to be popular, the reality would be that many councillors would not be able to personally afford to undertake the role without them.
“The risk would be that the only people who come forward to serve as councillors would be retired and wealthy people, which is what it used to be like.”
His views were supported by Cllr Lamb, who said: “If the role was ‘voluntary’ then clearly you wouldn’t expect an allowance to be paid at all, but the tax man doesn’t see it that way and very few who saw the workload involved these days would see it that way.
“Gone is the time when it was just a case of turning up to a couple of evening meetings.
“Allowances make it possible for more people to be councillors than just the retired or independently wealthy, which is healthy for a democracy.”
The allowance figures for 2012-2016 were recommended by an independent panel made up of: Alison Skinner, of NHS South of England; Roy Rose, of CADIA; CI Steve Curry, of Sussex Police; and Mary Goodchild, of Central Sussex College.