MORE council officials in the region are taking home six-figure packages, despite attempts to reduce staff bills in the face of austerity.

A total of 106 people working at councils in the North-East took home remuneration packages worth more than £100,000 in 2015/16 – 12 more than in the previous year.

Meanwhile 26 earned more than £150,000 and eight had remuneration packages topping £200,000 – with the highest reaching an "eye-watering" £625,570.

Loading article content

Remuneration packages for 2015/16:

• Dave Smith, former Sunderland chief executive: £625,570

• Sonia Tognarelli, Sunderland’s former director of finance and interim head of paid services: £605,598

• Phil Morton, former chief executive of Hambleton District Council: £397,967

• Ada Burns, chief executive of Darlington Borough Council: £178,603

• George Garlick, former chief executive of Durham County Council: £168,732 (from April to January)

• Mike Robinson, chief executive of Middlesbrough Borough Council: £160,309

• Richard Flinton, chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council: £193,105

• Neil Schneider, chief executive of Stockton Borough Council: £192,986

Councils say they are working towards making savings on top executives pay.

The figures were revealed by the Tax Payers’ Alliance, which described them as “disappointing”.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last 20 years and spending has gone through the roof. Disappointingly, many local authorities are now responding to financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay.

“Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with the number of people on six-figure deals actually going up since last year.

"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."

The most highly remunerated official in the country was former Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith, who had a package worth £625,570, including a £185,470 "golden handshake", and £331,414 in pension contributions.

The authority's director of finance Sonia Tognarelli's remuneration was £605,958, including £131,413 compensation for loss of office.

In total, the council handed out more than £1.6m to its three highest paid officials.

A Sunderland City Council spokesperson said: “These figures reflect the terms and conditions for eight senior employees no longer employed by the council, including former chief executive Dr Dave Smith.

“They include payments to the pension fund to reflect payments in the future.”

Darlington chief executive Ada Burns saw her remuneration drop, but still received £178,603 – down from £179,196 the year before.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “The costs of senior management has fallen by £2m in recent years and are reviewed regularly.

"Wages of senior staff are bench marked against other councils and reviewed by external consultants.”

Durham County Council, the region’s largest authority, had 20 employees earning more than £100,000 – two more than the previous year.

It's highest paid official was former chief executive George Garlick, who retired last year, who took home £168,732 for his 10 months in the role.

New chief executive Terry Collins will have a annual salary of £186,850 this year.

Paul Darby, the council’s head of financial and human resources services, says the creation of the unitary authority in 2009 saved £3m in senior management costs.

He added: “The salaries of senior managers and that of the chief executive were individually assessed in 2008, prior to the creation of the new council, by specialist, independent consultants to ensure that the levels of pay were equal to the responsibilities involved and in line with comparable senior executive pay.

“At the time, the chief executive’s salary was set at £200,000, the corporate directors at £140,000 and the assistant chief executive at £120,000.

"Since then senior executive pay has stayed at the same level, while the number of corporate directors has been reduced by nearly 17 per cent and the chief executive’s salary reduced by £15,000 a year.”

In Yorkshire, the highest remunerated officer was Hambleton District Council’s outgoing chief executive Phil Morton, who was given £397,967 when he retired as part of plans for the authority to save £1m.

A council spokesperson said: “In 2015/16 Hambleton District Council’s chief executive retired upon taking voluntary redundancy – the payment was made in line with council’s corporate policy and as part of a management restructure, which deleted the post of deputy chief executive resulting in significant savings.”