COUNCIL chiefs have defended a senior officer’s ten per cent pay increase described as “hard to justify” by a union leader.

Hambleton District Council chief executive Phil Morton will see his salary rise by £10,000 by April 2014.

Mr Morton - who currently earns £100,000 a year - will get an extra £5,000 annually from April, followed by a further £5,000 rise 12 months later.

The North Yorkshire council’s senior management team of five directors is also due to receive two increases totalling £4,500 which will bring their annual salaries up to £70,000.

In contrast, junior staff have faced a three-year pay freeze, with national negotiations currently taking place which could see them receiving a one per cent rise in April.

Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s regional head of local government, said: “It cannot be right that front-line staff who are dealing with the public at a time when services are being cut have received no more money, while their managers are being given substantial pay rises.

“It is hard to justify why Hambleton District Council’s managers are enjoying such significant salary increases.”

The increases will make Mr Morton the highest paid chief executive of North Yorkshire’s seven district councils.

Deputy leader Coun Ron Kirk said the extra money was due to previously agreed incremental increases, rather than pay rises.

He added that following the winding up of shares services between Hambleton and Richmondshire councils, Mr Morton had been placed on a “spot salary” of £100,000, which would then be subject to two incremental rises of £5,000.

“This will be the third successive year we’ve frozen council tax. We have the third lowest council tax demand in the country.

“We are an efficiently run council and we need to pay the market rate for the staff we employ.”

Coun Kirk added that the salary of £110,000 would only be £1,000 more than that paid to previous Hambleton chief executive Peter Simpson.

Neighbouring Richmondshire Council pays its managing director, Tony Clark, £93,000 after he received a £3,000 pay rise following his promotion from deputy chief executive.