CLAIMS the number of South Tyneside Council staff earning more than £50,000 a year has spiralled out of control were refuted today.
The Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, say there was an 83 per cent rise in the authority's top earners between 2006/07 and 2008/9.
The figures show the amount spent on middle and senior management rose from 4,946,000 to 9,070,000.
If accurate, it would equate to the highest earners costing every person in the borough 60.07p a year.
But a spokesman for South Tyneside Council questioned the findings.
He claimed the statistics were misleading, saying the Alliance used unaudited accounts, which included redundancy payments made to teachers.
The Alliance has accused South Tyneside and some other local authorities of "ignoring economic reality".
Matthew Elliott, the Alliance's chief executive, said: "In the private sector, thousands of people are losing their jobs, yet councils are better staffed and better paid than ever.
"Councils are ignoring economic reality and simply recruiting more managers and handing out more pay rises than taxpayers can afford."
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: "We aim to provide the best services while delivering value for money.
"To do that we must recruit and retain the best people. Careful consideration is given to the roles and responsibilities of each post when establishing an appropriate salary, and the council's wage structure reflects this.
"However, we would question the accuracy of the figures quoted by the Taxpayers' Alliance.
"The figures they have used for 2007/08 are from unaudited accounts, and present a far higher than accurate rise in our costs.
"Secondly, the figures include staff whose salary was less than 50,000, but who received over 50,000 only as a result of redundancy payments.
"The Taxpayers' Alliance figures then, do not relate solely to salaries for middle and senior managers.
"Excluding those staff made redundant would bring about a significant reduction in the sums quoted by the Taxpayers' Alliance."
The council says its audited accounts show that 125 employees received more than 50,000 during 2007/08 – not 144 as quoted by the Taxpayers' Alliance.
The 125 employees include 26 members of staff whose salary was under 50,000.
And the audited accounts show that the total cost of those 125 employees in 2007/08 was 7,865,000.