A CAMPAIGNING Middlesbrough councillor has slammed a decision to reward highly-paid top officers with a bumper pay rise.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon rubber-stamped the increases of about 15 per cent for the four executive directors of the council, which could take their annual pay packet to about £100,000.

Gresham councillor Ken Walker, who is suspended from the Labour Group for his outspoken attacks on the council's decision to bulldoze 37 streets in his ward, described the cash reward as "wholly inappropriate".

The decision has come weeks before a salary restructure that could lead to some lower-paid employees facing up to a 30 per cent reduction over the next two years.

Coun Walker said: "I find it offensive, obscene and wholly inappropriate. I urged the Mayor not to agree to accept it, but I was the only ward councillor who spoke out about this scandalous pay rise."

He added: "We have staff who are facing pay cuts in the New Year under a job-evaluation scheme. You cannot call that being the people's mayor."

The executive directors receiving £87,267 are Tim White (regeneration), Jan Douglas (social services), Terry Redmayne (children, families and learning) and John Richardson (environment), who is due to leave the authority for another job in the new year.

The £250-a-week increases will push their salaries into the £100,000 bracket.

But Mr Mallon defended the move, claiming it was the only way to secure the highest quality staff.

He said: "Just like any organisation, our main strength is our people, and we must retain staff who can do the best for the community of Middlesbrough. This proposal, which affects a small number of posts, will help us do that and enable us to recruit replacements for staff leaving.

"Over the past few years, Middlesbrough Council's director-level salaries have slipped behind the rest of the region. The proposal does no more than bring us in line with the average paid by other councils."

Dave Carsley, secretary of the Middlesbrough branch of Unison, admitted that there could be some debate over the increases. But he said: "However, it appears Middlesbrough is paying less for these executive director positions than elsewhere in the Tees Valley."