According to LGC's annual members' allowances survey, county leaders were the biggest winners with an average leap of 47% in 1998-99, taking their annual pay to£10,368. London leaders landed an average pay rise of 35.3%, taking them to£8,963.
The highest paid leaders are still in metropolitan authorities, where the average allowance was£14,996, up 12.8% on the last year.
English leaders were paid an average£6,840, while ordinary councillors were paid£3,125, up 14.9%.
In Wales, leaders had an average 1.2% fall to£9,844 and members went down 0.7% to£6,166.
Leeds City Council leader Brian Walker, the highest paid leader, said he worked on average 60 to 70 hours.
'There is a strange perception among the public that we should all be so enthusiastic in a political sense that we do this sort of thing for nothing. That's just not possible. All my colleagues with portfolio responsibility are here more or less full-time,' he said.
Speaking at the LGA conference in Harrogate, Wakefield MBC member Chris Heinitz said leaders' pay should be called salaries, not allowances: 'I am now on a salary of£11,250 full-time, with kids at home. Most people's reaction is 'my god, I thought you were getting more than that already'.'
Association of London Government chief executive Martin Pilgrim said a large increase was not surprising as there was a move in London toward reforming allowances in line with an ALG report published this year.
'I think we're seeing gradual rises and by 2002 will have something approaching sensible rates.'
County Councils Network director John Sellgren said research showed some county members got only 25p an hour for their work. Many had commissioned independent review panels for modernised allowances, including Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Devon, Essex and Kent.
A DETR spokesman said if councils wanted to attract top quality people, 'they have to pay quality wages'.