HUNDREDS of council bosses across the south received payments totalling more than £100,000 in one year alone, new figures have revealed.

A total of 368 officers in Hampshire and other parts of the region were awarded a six-figure sum in 2015-16 – an increase of 12 on the previous 12 months.

The number of managers receiving huge payments has come under fire from public spending watchdogs at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which compiled the data.

A spokesman said: “Council tax bills have just been issued for this financial year, and many taxpayers will see significant increases.

“At least a third of Britain’s biggest councils have already announced council tax increases of 4.99 per cent, the maximum increase that does not require a referendum.

“Councils have justified this, in part, by saying they have made all the savings they can. However, our latest Town Hall Rich List shows that many local authorities increased the amount they spent on senior management in 2015-16.”

But councils have hit back, saying many of the figures include one-off severance payments made to staff made redundant to cut costs.

They include a senior Fareham Borough Council employee who received £387, 541 – the highest town hall pay packet in the region in 2015-16.

Top earners at Southampton City Council included chief executive Dawn Baxendale (£188,635) and chief finance officer Andrew Lowe (£160,229).

Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen and a former leader of the authority, reacted angrily to the figures.

He said: “When I was running the council we decided to take from the top and the middle – and as little as possible from the bottom. In the past few years the people at the top have done very well.

“The council is complaining about budget cuts and yet it appears able to afford to pay people significant and in some cases exorbitant salaries. The ruling Labour group should take a long hard look at itself.”

But a council spokesman said the authority had reduced the number of senior managers in the last two years to save money.

He added: “Staff receive an annual salary in line with national pay levels for public sector. Roles reflect levels of responsibility within the organisation, having been first evaluated against national guidelines and agreements.”

High-earners at Hampshire County Council included the director of adult services (£335,873), the director of corporate resources (£168,000) and the director of economy, transport and environment (£160,523).

However, a county council spokesman said the number of staff paid £100,000 in 2015-16 was down on the previous year.

She added: “Since 2008, senior management levels have been reduced by 25 per cent, with fewer people on the top salary scales, and personnel structures modified so work is covered at lower cost.”

The spokesman said the director of adult services left the organisation in 2015 as part of the county council’s ongoing efficiency programme.

“Their remuneration included pension contributions and a one-off termination payment,” she said.

New Forest District Council’s head of information and communication technology received a total of £207,580.

A council spokesman said the employee had since left the authority, adding that the package included costs associated with the post being axed as part of a cost-cutting drive.

The Rich List covers the 2015-16 financial year, the latest period for which data is available.

Fareham Borough Council’s Director of Community received a total package of £387,541 – the biggest payment by any local authority in the south-east.

A council spokesman said the job was one of two senior posts that were axed last year to help the council save £1m a year.

She added: “The combined saving was £192,000 per year, balanced against one-off severance costs calculated in accordance with their terms and conditions of employment.

“The Director of Community’s annual salary was £84,934 and this, together with his statutory redundancy, and the contractual payments due to him in lieu of notice and holiday pay, amounted to £90,434.

“The balance of the payment was for pension contributions made on behalf of the employee in line with the Local Government Pension Scheme regulations. This is a payment to the Hampshire Pension Fund and not directly to the Director of Community.”

Nationally, 2,314 council employees received more than £100,000 in 2015-16 and 539 received in excess of £150,000.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) defended the high salaries, saying councils were large, complex organisations that often delivered more than 700 services.

A spokesman said: “It’s important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver this work.”

Top ten payments in 2015-16.

(In several cases, the managers have since been made redundant or new people appointed to the role).

Director of Community, Fareham Borough Council: £387,541

Director of Adult Services, Hampshire County Council: £335,873

Chief Operating Officer, Winchester City Council: £234,000

Chief Executive of Southampton City Council: £188,635

Chief Finance Officer, Winchester City Council: £175,000.

Director of Corporate Resources, Hampshire County Council: £168,630

Chief Executive, Portsmouth City Council: £168,389.

Director of Economy, Transport and Environment, Hampshire County Council: £160,523

Director of Community, Culture and Business Services, Hampshire County Council: £160,523

Director of Children’s Services, Hampshire County Council: £113, 096.