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UK Politics

Council chiefs earn more than the Prime Minister

Local authority chief executives' average total earnings reached almost £150,000 last year – considerably more than David Cameron's starting salary as Prime Minister, a new survey has revealed.

The data, taken from councils' annual accounts, shows that in March 2010, 43 per cent were being paid more than £150,000. Average pay across the country was £147,934. When the new Prime Minister took office two months later, it was at a reduced salary of £142,500. The survey by Income Data Services, published today, also indicates that calls for pay restraint in the public sector did not fall completely on deaf ears. The average salary increase on the previous year was only 2 per cent, with many chief executives foregoing any increase at all.

With councils under pressure to reduce top salaries, several of the highest paid council bosses have since retired or moved on, to be replaced by someone on a lower pay – though even those reduced salaries would look like riches to the average wage earner.

The best paid of all during the last financial year was Gerald Jones, who retired in July as chief executive of Wandsworth council in south London, on a pay packet of £242,617 a year, which was increased by £50,000 as he approached retirement. His pay was made up of £242,617 basic salary, plus a bonus and fees totalling £54,702. His successor, Paul Martin, was hired at a basic salary of £180,000.

Next highest was Joe Duckworth, in charge of the London borough of Newham. He resigned abruptly in July, after only two years in the job. His successor, Kim Bromley-Derry, was taken at a salary about £50,000 a year below the £241,483 that Mr Duckworth was receiving. Another very highly paid official, Peter Gilroy, chief executive of Kent County Council, was given a one-off payment of £200,000 on top of his large pension and retirement lump-sum when he stepped down last May. His job was advertised at £185,000.

John Foster, chief executive of Islington borough council, in London, who came fifth in the league of highly paid council chiefs, is due to retire in May. His successor will get a salary £50,000 a year less than Mr Foster's.

The next in the high pay league was Mark Hammond, chief executive of West Sussex county council, who went on "extended leave" last September. In October, it was confirmed that he had left his job permanently. His successor, Kieran Stigant's annual salary is £175,000, nearly £45,000 less than Mr Hammond was being paid.

Last June, there was a fraught meeting of Waltham Forest's Labour-controlled council, in north London, after which its chief executive, Andrew Kilburn, "stepped down" after two years in the job. He was replaced by his former deputy, Martin Esom, whose salary is £180,000, nearly £40,000 less than Mr Kilburn was being paid.

The lowest paid chief executive in the survey was Tim Howes, of the small West Somerset district council, who was paid £62,261.

Top 10 council fat cats

£299,925: Gerald Jones (Wandsworth)

£241,483: Joe Duckworth (Newham)

£237,000: Joanna Killiam (Essex)

£225,038: Peter Gilroy (Kent)

£222,868: John Foster (Islington)

£219,486: Mark Hammond (West Sussex)

£218,592: Andrea Hill (Suffolk)

£218,176: Andrew Kilburn (W'tham Forest)

£217,492: D Anderson (Lambeth)

£213,040: David McNulty (Surrey)