COUNTY Hall is accused of paying ‘bloated’ salaries to top officers – with 15 posts listed as costing taxpayers more than £96,000 each.

Top Somerset County Council earner at the start of the year was chief executive Sheila Wheeler – who has since left – on £160,000 plus pension contributions of £21,600.

Group director of operations PatrickFlaherty, who temporarily stepped into Ms Wheeler’s role, pockets £130,000 with £17,550 towards his pension.

A further five posts earn £100,000, although one of them was vacant, along with pension contributions of at least £13,500.

Another high-flier failed to reach six figures in pay – but pensions contributions took economic and community infrastructure operations director Michele Cusack’s full remuneration past £100,000.

A total of seven staff get £85,000 plus pension contributions of £11,475, while 25 managers are paid between £54,978 and £63,039, and enjoy pension contributions of up to £8,246.

A member of staff who asked not to be named said: “Lots of people have lost their jobs, most of us haven’t had a decent pay rise in ages and there have been enormous cuts, leading to poorer service delivery.

“Yet the bosses are still laughing all the way to the bank.

“It creates a ‘them and us’ culture and destroys morale.”

John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are still paying far too much for bloated salaries for the town hall top brass.

“It’s hard for council executives to retain the moral authority to make tough decisions on council spending if they believe their own pay and perks are immune.

“Councillors need to insist that their local authority does more to find savings and cut back on staff costs that residents cannot afford.”

A council spokesman said: “We have reduced the number of senior managers at the council.

“We have reduced the number of directors at the council.

“Our senior leadership team has had no pay rise at all for the past two years – a real time pay cut of more than 7%.

“Somerset County Council has reduced the total pay bill over the past two years and has cut back office staff in order to fund extra frontline staff in key areas like children’s centres.

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance should welcome this approach.”

  • Sheila Wheeler, chief executive, £160,000 salary, £21,600 pension contributions.
  • Patrick Flaherty, group director of operations, £130,000 salary, £17,550 pension contributions

The following are all on £100,000 salary with £13,500 pension contributions: lead commissioner children and learning (post vacant); Kevin Nacey, finance and performance director; Richard Williams, business development director; Clare Steel, lead commissioner adults and health.

  •  Trudi Grant, public health director, £100,000 salary, £14,000 pension contributions.
  • Michele Cusack, economic and community infrastructure operations director, £99,950 salary, £13,500 pensions contributions.

The following are all on £85,000 with £11,475 pension contributions: Paula Hewitt, lead commissioner economic and community infrastructure; Helen Wakeling, adults and health operations director; David Dick, learning disabilities operations director; Paul Nugent, learning and achievement operations director; children and families operations director (post vacant); Richard Crouch, human resources and organisational development director; customers and communities director (post vacant).

A total of 25 strategic managers are on between £54,978 and £63,039, with pension contributions of £7,348 to £8,246.

Information as at January 1, 2014.