Local councils are under pressure to cut huge “recession-proof” salaries after a survey revealed that almost 100 West Midlands town hall officials are paid over £100,000 and two of the highest earners get more than the prime minister.
Walsall Council chief executive Paul Sheehan is now the region’s highest paid local government boss, with a £203,595 pay packet.
Stephen Hughes, chief executive of Birmingham City Council, has slipped into second place on £200,372.
Both men earn more than Gordon Brown, whose total salary is £197,689.
The details are contained in a Town Hall Rich List survey by the TaxPayers’Alliance (TPA), based on Freedom of Information Act replies from English councils.
The precise detail of Mr Sheehan’s pay sparked a sharp row between Walsall Council leader Mike Bird and the TPA.
Coun Bird insisted the true pay figure for 2008-09 was £189,533 plus £12,000 relocation expenses adn £1,100 for travel.
But a TPA spokesman said Walsall Council’s FOI response showed a salary band of between £200,000 and £205,000 for Mr Sheehan plus a £1,095 car allowance.
The TPA figures reveal a sharp increase in local authority salaries, despite the toughest recession for decades, pleas for pay restraint from Ministers and severe spending cuts by most councils.
Across England, the number of council staff earning £100,000 or more shot up by 14 per cent in 2008-09, while there was a 20 per cent increase in officials earning more than £150,000.
TPA policy analyst John O’Connell said the trend demonstrated that councils across the country were “insulated from economic reality”.
Mr O’Connell added: “Town Hall bosses have had a very good recession at taxpayers’ expense. More of them than ever are earning massive amounts, and they even enjoyed a healthy pay rise while everyone else was suffering pay freezes, cuts or redundancies.”
Eleven Birmingham City Council officials are paid more than £100,000, including children’s director Tony Howell, housing director Elaine Elkington, adults and communities director Peter Hay and corporate resources director Paul Dransfield, who are all on £145,000.
But they are eclipsed by Sharon Lea, director of community safety and environmental service, on £165,000.
Other big earners include former Dudley Council chief executive Andrew Sparke, who received £194,600 in 2008-09, including salary and redundancy payments.
Wolverhampton Council’s highest paid official, who was not named in a Freedom of Information Act reply to the TaxPayers’Alliance, received £151,782, Sandwell chief executive Mary Fraser was paid £137,500 and Solihull Council chief executive Mark Rogers received £119,897.
*Full story in this week’s Birmingham Post, out today