THE Local Government Ombudsman has appointed an investigator to look into a complaint regarding the payment of a so-called “clothing allowance” to Durham county councillors, The Northern Echo understands.

The allowance, which the authority says is a civic allowance payable to the chairman and vice-chairman, was the subject of a recent complaint by Liberal Democrat County Councillor Mark Wilkes.

He says the council has covered up the payment, totalling more than £12,000 a year, and has called for an investigation into its “legality and probity”.

Durham County Council, which has announced a review of civic expenses , has already rejected an internal complaint submitted by Coun Wilkes over the same matter.

Coun Wilkes, who has also contacted the Audit Commission, said: “I am pleased that the Ombudsman is investigating this allowance and look forward to the response.”

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron waded into the on-going row over the allowance in a speech criticising what he said were excessive salaries and perks for Labour councillors when he joked about the authority spending on “Geordie Armani”.