WILTSHIRE Council spent more than £880,000 on its top earners in the last financial year, a report has revealed.

Disclosed as part of the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Town Hall Rich List, £886,740 was split between just seven members of staff at the county authority.

However, the council says that those people who are paid the high wages are responsible for “multi-million pound budgets in a highly complex organisation”.

“To attract and retain the best and brightest people to deliver value for money you have to pay a suitable wage,” said finance chief Councillor Philip Whitehead, pictured.

Revealed in the list, the top earner for the county was the associate director, people and business who was paid £178,316 during the 2017-18 financial year. The documents show, however, that this total was due to a severance payment of £81,169 following a management restructure in November 2017.

The unnamed employee had earned £96,919 up to that date, of their £104,761 yearly salary, with £228 of that amount paid as part of expenses.

The next highest earner was the corporate director for communities, resources and digital who was paid £151,444. Of that total, £179 were paid from expenses claims.

The five other employees, who were all paid less than £150,000, were: corporate director, children and education (paid £134,201); corporate director, growth, investment and place (£125,885); director, finance and procurement (£106,128); director, legal and democratic corporate (£102,528); director adult social care (£88,238).

Cllr Whitehead said: “The level of our senior salaries are lower than comparable authorities and if a comparison is made to equivalent positions in the private sector the taxpayer gets very good value for money.

“In addition, our decision to remove the post of chief executive has demonstrated that a revised model of leadership not only works, but also delivers significant savings.

“We use our resources wisely and are committed to continually improving how we perform and deliver services.”

He added: “Since becoming a unitary authority 10 years ago, we have made a significant reduction in the number of managers in the organisation, which has delivered year on year savings of more than £8m in this area alone.”

But John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, hit at the authority.

He said: “There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities.”

No Salisbury City Council employees were on the list.