Council chief executives earn more than first minister
Unison has condemned some council executives for giving themselves above inflation payrises
Six council chief executives earn more than the first minister, BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme has discovered.
Also, four top officials earned salary rises above the public sector average.
Cardiff's ex-chief executive had a pay rise of 33.3% in his final year but the council said this included back pay and payment for returning officer work.
The Welsh Local Government Association said the pay rises were the result of "historic deals being honoured" but a union called salaries "out of control".
First Minister Carwyn Jones is entitled to £132,862 in his role as the head of the Welsh Assembly Government.
However, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the last financial year the chief executives of Merthyr Tydfil, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff councils earned more.
It's unacceptable where you've got chief officers on extremely high salaries receiving large pay rises
Dominic Macaskill, Unison
Paul Smith at Swansea was the third highest paid chief executive, earning £155,901 last year.
Next was John Mailtand Evans, who has been chief executive of the Vale of Glamorgan since 2000, and who earned between £160,000 and £170,000.
A statement from the Vale of Glamorgan council said: "The salary is on a par with other council chief executives and, we understand, lower than that earned by persons in similar positions elsewhere in the public sector in Wales."
Cardiff Council had the best paid chief executive.
Byron Davies, who has since retired, earned a basic salary of £179,526 in his last year in the job.
With extras such as pay renegotiation and money he got as returning officer in the local elections, his total salary was £208,515.
This represents a 33.3% increase on his salary the previous year.
A council spokesman said: "The total for 2008-09 for the previous chief executive was £208,515 but this included £15,702 back pay and £11,790 as returning officer.
"The figure was determined by the National Joint Secretary of the Joint Negotiating Committee of Chief Executives of Local Authorities."
The current chief executive's salary is £176,376.
Mr Evans' salary band at the Vale of Glamorgan was up 14.3%, Mr Smith's salary at Swansea was up 4.9% and Pembrokeshire chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones's salary band was up 3.4%.
By contrast, the average pay rise in the public sector last year was 2.5%.
Salaries "out of hand"
Dominic Macaskill from Unison said top salaries were getting "out of hand".
"It's unacceptable where you've got chief officers on extremely high salaries receiving large pay rises," he said.
"Over the last two years, local government workers have received below inflation pay rises and this year there's a proposal to freeze pay.
"Freezing pay when you're on a chief executive's salary is tolerable and sustainable, but freezing pay when you're on just above the minimum wage, that is not acceptable."
Steve Thomas, chief executive of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said the figures were for the last year when chief executives' pay was "still without pay restraint".
"Clearly there have been historic deals in place and those historic deals have been honoured, but I think there will be considerable restraint in the next few years," he said.
Chief executive pay is determined by each individual local authority.
All but one local authority in Wales pays its chief executive more than £100,000.
"These things are justified locally and very accountably to the council at the local level," Mr Thomas said.
"They think the people involved are worth it and no doubt they are.
"These are hugely responsible jobs, running big services like education, social services and waste and you pay to get quality people into these authorities."
4,000 jobs could go
The Welsh Assembly Government said the public sector would need to come up with new ways of doing business to meet the strain of current financial pressures.
It comes as the WLGA warned that up to 4,000 local authority jobs could be lost in Wales in order to save money.
Mr Macaskill said councils' top earners should take the hit rather than low paid workers.
"We're in a climate where draconian cuts are being faced in all public services and what is being proposed will hit frontline services," he said.
"Efficiency savings are no longer going to meet those needs so we need to look at real strategic changes to local government and having 22 chief executives, 22 directors of social services and 22 directors of education is no longer sustainable."
Dragon's Eye is on BBC 1 Wales at 23.35 GMT and BBC 2 in Wales only at 19.00 GMT on Thursday 25 February.
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