WIRRAL'S coalition-led council has been accused of "throwing rank and file staff to the wolves" while feather-bedding a "clique" of senior officers.

Last night, the Conservative and Lib-Dem administration agreed to a further £8m cut in the salary costs paid to its most senior staff.

At a closed meeting of the employment and appointments committee, a secret report revealed 33 of the highest-paid staff who requested voluntary severance were given permission to leave the council by December 31.

The town hall is seeking to make cuts of around £100m over the next four years under Government "austerity measures".

More than 1,600 staff have applied for voluntary redundancy.

Pay rises have been agreed for senior staff who will step in to take on extra responsibilites sparked by the lay-offs.

Labour opposition leader Cllr Steve Foulkes said a "senior officer clique" is looking after itself by being given preferential treatment over lower-paid workers.

He said: "This idea that 'we are all in this together' is a total sham.

"What we're now seeing is the senior officer group being boxed-off, getting their little clique sorted out, while the rank and file are being thrown to the wolves.

"We know of one senior officer who has received an extra £31,000 on top of their salary for stepping up their responsibilities.

"They are splitting the senior staff from the rank and file and creating a great deal of resentment and ill-feeling in the process."

He pointed out the 33 senior officers on pay scale 49 - which represents a salary of up to £75,000 - have had a "democratic input" to their severance agreements and are already aware of their redundancy terms as well as being given a leaving date.

"The lower-paid workers have been offered no such agreement yet and have no idea what the future holds for them. They are not being treated fairly.

"We are seeing the wholescale destruction of services and losing very talented people; we will never replace that loss of experience."

He pledged Labour would reinstate "some" senior staff if the group gains enough seats to form an administration in next May's local elections.

Conservative council leader Cllr Jeff Green said: "I have made clear for many years that I believe the council must reduce the number of managers and senior staff it employs.

"Every pound matters to this administration, and every pound we save by reducing the council's management costs is a pound that can be used to deliver our residents' priorities.

"The decision tonight is just a start on this road and other senior managers will be leaving over the next six months as the council responds to resident's views expressed in the recent consultation.

"More than 1,600 requests for voluntary severance have been received and each one has been assessed for impact on services, keeping the vulnerable safe, and budgets.

"The council's staff have recognised that in the future, the way services are managed and delivered will have to change.

"It is a shame the former Labour council leader and his colleagues just don't get it and remain in denial of the financial mess the previous Government left the country in."

He added: "Labour, tonight, showed yet again that they have no plan to get the council through the challenges we face.

"On Monday, they said we hadn't moved fast enough. On Tuesday, they sought to delay the release of some of the highest paid staff in the council, potentially adding thousands of pounds to our salary bill in January.

"I will take no lectures from a Labour group who, the Care Quality Commission reported, left office leaving some of the most vulnerable people in our society poorly safeguarded."