Three councils spend over half a million each on top earners
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has defended the pay of senior council staff after the BBC learnt that 40 in Wales are earning over £100,000.
Eighteen of the 22 councils spend nearly £4m on those members of staff.
The Vale of Glamorgan has the most staff, seven, with six-figure salaries, including two teachers. This is more than the education minister earns.
The WLGA said councils required the best people to do the top jobs and that they were "hugely experienced".
The information was provided by 18 of the 22 councils in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by BBC Wales on staff salaries
According to the data released, it is thought that at least eight council staff are earning more than First Minister Rhodri Morgan (who gets £129,047) or the leader of the UK Conservatives David Cameron (who is on £132,317).
Two of the councils have yet to respond to the request - Cardiff and Carmarthen. The BBC are awaiting further details from Pembrokeshire and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Councils were asked to provide details of numbers of staff earning over £50,000, £80,000 and £100,000.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, seven staff were earning more than £100,000.
These include two teachers earning more than £100,000. The minister responsible for education in Wales Jane Hutt earns £91,000 per year.
Three of the councils spend more than half a million pounds each on the highest earners.
Blaenau Gwent and Ceredigion had no members of staff earning more than £100,000, and three and one respectively earning more than £80,000.
Last month, a campaign group released the results of a survey of all the councils in the UK showing how much each council chief executive earned.
Taxpayers' Alliance claimed the highest paid council chief executive in Wales for 2006-7 was Cardiff's Byron Davies on £151,186.
'Value for money'
Steve Thomas, chief executive of the WLGA, said: "We're talking about the most senior professionals in Welsh local government.
"These people have been in local government for many years. They're hugely experienced.
"They run something like over 200 functions including education and social services, they employ something like 165,000 people.
"These are top jobs and you require the best people to do them."
He said Wales was one of the poorest areas of the UK in terms of top salaries, saying the average chief executive pay in north east Wales was £105,000 compared to Chester just over the border on £161,000.
"I think we see Welsh local authorities offering great value for money," he added.
"We see professionals paid a good wage to do a very important and onerous job."
There will be more on this story on Dragon's Eye on BBC One Wales at 2235 BST on Thursday.