THE chief executive of the new Dorset Council is set to be paid as much as £175,000 a year – the highest paid unitary authority boss in the South West.

A report produced for tomorrow’s meeting of the Dorset Area Joint Committee, says that there are “challenges” for local authorities in appointing chief executives.

Following a recommendation from the Local Government Association, a salary of between £160,000 and £175,000 has been deemed necessary to allow the council “to be competitive in the market”.

However, John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance said that whoever took up the role would have to prove that they are worth the salary.

"Council executive pay is generally too high in the UK, and the holder of this new post must work very hard to prove they are worth anything like it,” he said.

“Taxpayers are fed up of council tax shooting up every, seemingly to pay exorbitant remuneration, because don't forget this chief executive will be receiving a very generous pension on top of their salary.

“It may be more difficult to run a new unitary organisation for a few years than an existing body, but why not link the pay to performance?”

The chief executive will be responsible for running the new authority which runs all services across Dorset, excluding the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch area.

Debbie Ward, Dorset County Council chief executive, was paid £181,000, including a £150,000 salary, in 2016/17 – the most of any council officer in the county in 2016/17.

A survey included in the report, shows that the highest paid chief executive of the 15 unitary authorities in the South West received £159,409 in 2014/15 with the average pay just over £150,000.

The report says: “All councils are faced with the challenge of recruiting and retaining senior staff in what is a relatively small pool of appropriately qualified individuals.

“They face continuing challenges for the necessary skills and experience from the private sector and other public sector bodies.”

The selection process for appointing someone to the role is expected to take place in late July and early August.