A COUNCIL chief defended salaries of almost £200,000 at a public meeting in Abingdon to discuss spending cuts.

The leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Keith Mitchell, was asked by a resident if paying more than £100,000 for bosses could be justified.

An Oxford Mail investigation found county council chief executive Joanna Simons was the highest paid public servant in the county on £189,158 – more than Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Mitchell said: “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

“Our organisation is a big and complicated one and if you want to attract senior people you need to pay a decent salary. We are cutting the number of managers – it will be thinner and leaner.”

Residents at the debate at the Guildhall on Thursday were told to expect deep cuts and job losses.

Some £200m needs to be cut from the council’s £1bn budget.

Mr Mitchell said: “We will have to look at evidence and we will have to look across the whole county.

“It will not be easy and none of us are looking forward to it.”

Chairman of the debate, BBC Oxford’s Bill Heine, said: “We are facing some of the biggest cuts local government has seen in a lifetime.”