One of Wiltshire Council’s top paid directors, whose salary band exceeds that of the Prime Minister, has defended council chiefs being paid more than £100,000 a year.

Corporate director Maggie Rae, who earns up to £148,271 a year while David Cameron earns £142,500, was quizzed by MPs at a Parliamentary hearing on senior pay in London.

Mrs Rae is one of three senior Wiltshire Council employees on a salary band of £134,503 to £148, 271.

When asked whether that was justified, she said she did not think top council jobs were comparable to that of the Prime Minister.

She claimed it was a struggle to fill senior council positions with the best staff even at high salaries.

She said: “We’re paying middle-range salaries while at the same time we have ambition to be the most excellent council, and we are struggling to get staff into jobs even at those salaries because people can earn much more money in the private sector.

"I think we’ve got to work very hard to make sure local government doesn’t fall behind.

“We’ve got a number of senior officer jobs in a variety of services, such as children’s social care and adult social care, and it is very difficult to attract staff to those jobs.

“You look at the advertisements and the salaries are going up and up and up on those jobs, and many of the qualified staff who have the expertise are in the interim market because they can earn a great deal more that way than if they joined local government [full time].”

The committee heard a claim from the Taxpayers’ Alliance that more than 2,500 officers working in local government earn more than £100,000 a year.

Mrs Rae said that local government chief officers had not enjoyed big increases in pay over the last few years.

She took over the corporate director role in 2013 at Wiltshire Council after social services boss Sue Redmond took voluntary redundancy and the council merged public health and adult social care.