Nearly 2,800 council fat cats raked in more than £100,000 last year as the country grappled with the cost of living squeeze.
Town halls paid out generous pension contributions, bonuses and other benefits despite hiking taxes to pay for services under pressure from sky-high inflation and extra demand.
According to data obtained by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), 2,759 council bosses received six-figure salaries, with 721 getting more than £150,000.
Some 608 were paid more than prime minister Rishi Sunak, who got £156,163 in the last financial year.
The highest-earning council boss was the unnamed managing director of Guildford Borough Council, who was paid an eyewatering £607,633 - enough to fund 18 nurses for an entire year.
The payment was made up of £107,195 salary, £339,158 pension contributions and £5,688 in benefits and a golden goodbye.
Guildford would not reveal the identity of the director despite their salary being funded by taxpayers.
A spokesman said: “In the last financial year we made a one-off payment of £154,000 to the former managing director.
“The payment was a legal obligation and reflects over 30 years of loyal service to our borough.
“This payment was shared equally with Waverley Borough Council in line with our partnership agreement.”
The second highest-paid council boss was Fiona Brown - Sunderland’s outgoing executive director for neighbourhoods.
A spokesman said: “We continue to deliver crucial services during the cost of living crisis, including services to thousands of vulnerable adults and children, and are delivering hundreds of millions of pounds of investment that is making Sunderland a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant city.
“This work involves major social and legal responsibilities and remuneration to senior and ex-staff, including pensions and benefits where they have left after long service, can reflect this.”
Robert Steenson, North Lanarkshire’s executive director for enterprise and communities was third. His £536,530 payment included compensation for loss of office.
A spokesman said: “As with any employee, the postholder is entitled to their pension payment and redundancy where a role is made redundant.”
The fourth biggest pay packet went to Sandy Hopkins, who was chief executive of Southampton City Council until last year. She received £406,403 including a £188,239 payoff.
Fifth was Paul Najsarek, who stepped down as Ealing’s chief executive in 2021 with £325,047 including a £94,859 pay-off.
Of the ten local authorities with the most employees receiving over £100,000, eight were in London.
TPA, a right-wing pressure group that does not disclose its funding sources and campaigns for lower taxes, questioned whether councils were providing value for money.
It published its local authority ‘rich list’ as households continue to face double-digit inflation and rises in council tax.
Meanwhile, bills are going up by 5.1 per cent this year, meaning the charge for an average Band D property will top £2,000 for the first time, and inflation has been above 10 per cent since last summer.
It added that in 2021-22 there was a “large reduction” in the number of councils publishing accounts, with 47 failing to disclose the pay of their town hall bosses, compared to 25 local authorities last year.
TPA estimates suggest that, had the figures been disclosed, the true number would have been closer to 3,126 individuals on more £100,000.
The average number of employees who received £100,000 or more in total remuneration was 7.9 per local authority.
The average number receiving £150,000 or more was 2.1 employees per local authority.
The local authority with the greatest number of employees receiving total remuneration over £100,000 was Westminster, with 50 employees.
The local authority to pay out the highest amount in terms of bonuses and performance-related pay to a senior employee was Newcastle Upon Tyne council, with their director of public health receiving a £36,192 bonus.
Stoke had the lowest occupancy rate in the country at just 7 per cent – and six staff received more than £100,000.
The local authority to pay out the highest amount in terms of bonuses and performance-related pay to a senior employee was Newcastle upon Tyne council, with their director of public health receiving a £36,192 bonus, the Taxpayers’ Alliance revealed.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers facing record council tax rises want to be sure they are getting value for money from their local authority leadership.“Many authorities continue with extremely generous pay and perks, including bonuses and golden goodbyes, while local people are facing a financial squeeze.“Residents can use these figures to hold their local town hall bosses to account.”
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