Three Rivers’ chief executive’s pay rise last year added an extra "burden" to the district’s finances, according to political opposition.

Steven Halls, who receives a six-figure salary for working four days a week, saw his salary, including his expense allowance, increase from £117,420 in 2012/2013 to £118,582 last year.

Taking into account Mr Halls’ pension contributions - which amounted to £18,892, - the total he took home from the council came to £137,474, the district's financial statement of accounts show.

The pay rise has come under fire from the district’s Conservative leader, Ralph Sangster, who said that, considering the council’s financial position, the top officer should not receive a pay rise.

Councillor Sangster said: "The services that we provide the public have got to find £1.2million worth of savings this year to enable us to balance the books in the coming two years.

"Salaries generally are the biggest single expense for the council by a long way and clearly the increase that the chief executive and senior managers had last year have added to the burden to the costs of the council an enormous amount.

"When you take into account the lowest paid members of staff maybe £15,000, that £2,000 given to the chief executive is a lot."

Last year, national negotiations awarded a one per cent increase to local government staff.

Three Rivers’ top officers were excluded from the pay rise until politicians voted to award them the same increase in salary, boosting Mr Halls’ £116,181 by more than £1,000.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat-run council, Ann Shaw, defended the pay increase, saying it was important to have strong leadership, especially during times of difficulty.

Councillor Shaw said: "If you have staff who are extremely effective and are very much appreciated by the community, you don’t start picking people out and punishing them. We thought it fair to award all the staff."

The administration’s handlings of the district’s finances has been criticised by political opposition the past, namely the William Penn Leisure Centre rebuild fiasco, which came in at more than £4million over budget.

Ahead of other major projects, such as the South Oxhey Initiative, Councillor Shaw said now is the time you need strong management.

Councillor Shaw added: "People like the chief executive hold the thing together, particularly in difficult times.

"The more difficult times are and the more stretched you are the more you need someone at the helm keeping the thing together."

Councillor Stephen Cox, leader of the district’s Labour group, agreed with awarding the pay increase.

He said: "It was a national agreement and I was not prepared to go against those national negotiations."