Despite taking a five per cent pay cut last year, Cornwall Council chief executive Kevin Lavery managed to take home an extra £6,500 in his wages last year.

Figures released this week show that his pay and benefits package rose from £238,800 in 2009/10 to £245,342 in 2010/11.

The news has been labelled ‘astonishing’ by government ministers who have been calling for council leaders to show responsibility while authorities are cutting spending.

However, Cornwall Council has defended the pay package, saying Mr Lavery had indeed taken a five per cent pay cut this financial year, but was paid more than £9,500 in expenses to cover moving costs as part of a pre-arranged agreement.

The figures, which were compiled by the Daily Telegraph, show Mr Lavery’s basic wage fell from £200,000 to £197,500 last year, but additional benefits of £47,842 brought the overall remittance to a higher level than the previous year.

It compares to an average wage of £186,872 for council bosses across the UK, and is significantly higher than the £142,000 paid to the prime minister david Cameron last year.

Grant Shapps, the local government minister, said: "It is astonishing that it appears chief executives are finding elaborate ways to hike their pay through the back door. A culture of bumper pay and perks has no place in local government especially during these tough times across the public sector.

“Cutting pay is one thing chief executives can do to demonstrate a personal commitment to protecting the front line. I urge them to do the right thing and lead from the front."

Cornwall Council responded: “The Chief Executive of Cornwall Council has not received an increase in his salary as claimed in the article in the Daily Telegraph.

“The facts are that Mr Lavery volunteered to take a 5% reduction in his salary which came into effect in January 2011. “He is, as far as we are aware, one of only two local authority chief executives who have taken a voluntary cut in their salary.

“The additional figure is the amount paid by the Council as his employer into the Pension Fund and is not an increase in his salary.

“The £9,527 “expenses” quoted in the article were for legal and removal costs relating to the sale of his house in accordance with the Council’s relocation policy.”