THE Taxpayers’ Alliance has been branded "sinister" in a storm over huge salaries and pension packets for council bosses.

Cllr Stewart Young of Cumbria County Council criticised the pressure group following the publication of its “town hall rich list” which identified staff on over £100,000 a year.

Several council bosses in Cumbria were featured, including county chief executive Katherine Fairclough who is paid £164,093 in pay and pension.

Cllr Young defended the salary and said it was a "huge job" with a turnover of £800 million, thousands of staff and vital services to deliver.

He said: “I don’t know what the Taxpayers' Alliance is suggesting councils do? When you advertise these types of jobs, you are going into a market and there’s a market rate. You either pay the market rate or you don’t get people applying. People don’t have to come to Cumbria to work."

The TPA said executive pay at local authorities had gone untouched while the public faced annual council tax hikes. However, the alliance has also faced serious questions about the source of its own funding.

Cllr Young said: "I think they do have an agenda and they are not honest about who is funding them. They just seem to have this constant undermining of local government and the whole democratic process. To be quite honest, I find it quite sinister because I wonder what their agenda is?”

He said compared to other local authorities, Cumbria paid a lot less.

"You have to get the talent, and whatever I think about it, that’s just how it is. I would also say, just in case anyone is any doubt, that elected members don’t get paid anything like that," said the Labour member for Upperby.

Cllr Young receives around £25,000-a-year in allowances as the elected leader of the council.

In response, John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA said it was "sad" to see upset at the exposure of council's "extortionate wage bills".

He said: "They will be furious with our campaign to stop public sector fat cats receiving golden goodbyes, which this week resulted in the government announcing a cap of £95,000 on payouts. We are determined to make sure pen pushers don't take advantage of taxpayers' by rewarding themselves with huge salaries and pay-offs."

"We will not apologise for shining a light on wasteful spending and telephone number salaries."