A SENIOR officer at Wiltshire Council has appeared before MPs to defend a pay structure that gives her higher earning potential than the Prime Minister.

Maggie Rae is one of three Trowbridge directors on a salary scale of £134,503 to £148,271, while David Cameron receives £142,500.

Mrs Rae appeared before a Parliamentary committee who asked her whether it was justifiable to pay council chiefs more than £100,000 a year.

She told them that council jobs were “not comparable” with Mr Cameron’s, but that her hours equalled his.

She also claimed that it was a struggle to fill senior council roles with the best staff, even at these figures.

“We’re paying middle-range salaries while at the same time we have ambition to be the most excellent council, and we are struggling to get staff into jobs even at those salaries because people can earn much more money in the private sector,” said Mrs Rae.

"I think we’ve got to work very hard to make sure local government doesn’t fall behind.

“We’ve got a number of senior officer jobs in a variety of services, such as children’s social care and adult social care, and it is very difficult to attract staff to those jobs.”

Staff with the right expertise can earn more in interim roles – up to £800 a day in London – than in full-time council jobs, she said She also told the members of the communities and local government committee that local government chief officers had not enjoyed big increases over the last few years.

Mrs Rae took over the corporate director role in 2013 after social services boss Sue Redmond took voluntary redundancy and the council merged public health and adult social care.