COUNTY Hall is accused of paying “bloated” salaries to top officers – with 15 posts listed as costing taxpayers more than £96,000 each.

Top Somerset County Council earner at the start of the year was chief executive Sheila Wheeler – who has since left – on £160,000 plus pension contributions of £21,600.

Group director of operations Patrick Flaherty, who has stepped into Ms Wheeler’s role on an acting basis, receives £130,000 with £17,550 towards his pension.

A further five posts earn £100,000, although one of them was vacant, along with pension contributions of at least £13,500.

Another high-flier failed to reach six figures in pay – but pensions contributions took economic and community infrastructure operations director Michele Cusack’s full remuneration past £100,000.

A total of seven staff get £85,000 plus pension contributions of £11,475 while 25 managers are paid between £54,978 and £63,039, and enjoy pension contributions of up to £8,246.

A member of staff, who asked not to be named, said: “Lots of people have lost their jobs, most of us haven’t had a decent pay rise in ages and there have been enormous cuts, leading to poorer service delivery.

“Yet the bosses are still laughing all the way to the bank.

“It creates a ‘them and us’ culture and destroys morale.”

John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are still paying far too much for bloated salaries for the town hall top brass.

“It’s hard for council executives to retain the moral authority to make tough decisions on council spending if they believe their own pay and perks are immune.

“Councillors need to insist that their local authority does more to find savings and cut back on staff costs that residents cannot afford.”

A county council spokesman said: “We have reduced the number of senior managers at the council.

“We have reduced the number of directors at the council.

“Our senior leadership team has had no pay rise at all for the past two years – a real time pay cut of more than 7%.

Somerset County Council has reduced the total pay bill over the past two years and has cut back office staff in order to fund extra frontline staff in key areas like children’s centres.

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance should welcome this approach.”