Two Hampshire councils spent hundreds of thousands of pounds more on high-earning staff in 2011-12 than the previous year, according to a survey released today.

But one council shown shown on the Taxpayers Alliance report as increasing its expenditure on high-earners is disputing the figures, saying it has actually reduced staff numbers and made savings over the past two financial years.

The TPA figures, which are drawn from councils' annual accounts, are part of a nationwide round-up of how much authorities spent on staff earning £50,000 on 2011-12, and whether that was an increase or decrease on the previous year.

New Forest District Council was shown as having nine more staff earning £50,000 or higher than in 2010-11, with its budget increasing accordingly by £537,000.

The TPA said Test Valley Borough Council employed four more staff members from 2010-11 to 2011-12 and spent an additional £240,000.

But a spokesman for New Forest disputed the figures, saying the TPA had double-counted figures from its annual accounts.

The figures show Hampshire County Council has 366 staff earning in excess of £50,000 on the books, but with 94 less than the previous year and saving £5.06million in the process - the ninth-biggest decrease in the country.

However it is still has the ninth-most employees on more than £50,000 in the country.

Southampton City Council lost 35 of its high-earning staff, saving £1.9million in the process.

The earnings recorded include salaries, bonuses, benefits in kind and termination payments, but not pension contributions.

Saying there was in fact a reduction from 12 high-earning staff in 2010-11 to 11 in 2011-12, a New Forest spokesman said the authority had actually saved £50,000.

She said eight people who had left the council had appeared in the its 2011-12 accounts due to termination benefits, and added: “The TPA has taken the totals for each year and then added the number of staff leaving on top.

“This is incorrect as these staff were already included in the totals.”

A spokesman for Test Valley said: “The number of employees in Test Valley Borough Council with a total remuneration package of over £50,000 (excluding employer pension contributions) increased from 20 in the financial year 2010/11 to 24 in the financial year 2011/12.

“This was not the result of additional employees but rather two existing employees' overall remuneration package moving them into a higher band. However, the banding also includes two members of staff made redundant, where their redundancy entitlement plus salary was greater than £50,000.

“We are unable to comment on the claimed overall increase by the Taxpayers' Alliance of £240,000 as this does not reconcile with any figures in our Annual Statement of Accounts.”

The TPA's chief executive, Matthew Sinclair, said: ''Taxpayers are still paying far too much for bloated bureaucracies that have been established in too many town halls over the last decade.

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

Reacting to the finding, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: ''Whilst I commend those councils taking action, there are still many others failing to get a grip on costs.

''This report exposes the fact that town halls still have massive scope to make sensible savings to protect important frontline services and freeze council tax.''

Council Number of staff on remuneration packages in excess of £50,000 in 2011-12 Change in headcount compared to 2010-11 Total cost of remuneration packages of £50,000 or more in 2011-12 (£) Change compared to 2010-11 (£)
Eastleigh Borough Council 20 2 £1,240,000 -£175,000
Fareham Borough Council 21 -1 £1,317,500 -£82,500
Gosport Borough Council 16 4 £975,000 -£170,000
Hampshire County Council 366 -94 £23,400,000 -£5,060,000
New Forest District Council 27 9 £1,602,500 £537,500
Southampton City Council 128 -35 £8,970,000 -£1,905,000
Test Valley Borough Council 24 4 £1,555,000 £240,000
Winchester City Council 25 -4 £1,542,000 -£572,500