Almost half of local authority chief executives were paid more than £150,000 last year according to research.
A study of 312 councils in England and Wales showed that total earnings ranged from £62,000 in West Somerset DC to almost £300,000 at Wandsworth LBC.
Average earnings across the country were £147,934 a year, according to a report by the Incomes Data Services (IDS) which counted basic salary, benefits, annual bonuses and extra duties allowances figures included in council annual reports.
Their study showed that 43% of local authority chief executives were paid over £150,000 last year - more than the prime minister’s salary of £142,500.
David Cameron elected to forgo a substantial part of his £198,661 basic salary when he took office, although the Hutton Review of Fair Pay in the Public Sector described his salary as a “flawed” benchmark and suggested that the accommodation benefits of Downing Street and Chequers were worth another £338,000 a year.
The IDS report also stated that calls for pay restraint have not fallen on deaf ears in local government, with average salary increases of 2% last year for chief executives.
Just under a third - 30% - went without an increase, according to figures from the 178 councils who provided 2008-09 comparative data in their 2009-10 annual accounts.
Research by LGC, published last month, showed that a quarter of chief executives had gone further and taken a pay cut, whether through reductions to basic salary, refusing incremental increases or performance related pay, or the end of benefits such as car allowances.
The report from IDS shows that county council chief executives in the south-east were the highest paid, with average earnings of £204,000, compared with £159,000 in the south-west, the study showed.
District council chief executives in the south-east were also the highest paid, receiving an average of £118,000, while the lowest average figure was in the north-west at £104,000.
Only one chief executive in five was female, although pay rates were similar to men, said the IDS report.
The highest paid female chief executive last year was Joanna Killian, head of both Essex CC and Brentwood BC, who earnt £237,000 according to the authority’s 2009-10 accounts. She has since taken a 5% pay cut and now earns £225,000, a spokeswoman for Essex said.
Nasreen Rahman of IDS said: “With nearly half of all local authority chief executives earning more than the prime minister, clearly, in the current climate, town hall bosses will be facing tough questions from council tax payers.
“For the first time, such a comprehensive picture of local authority senior executive pay is possible because of the new disclosure regulation brought in last year, where local authorities have to give more salary information on their top paid officials.”