Council bosses are going to extraordinary lengths to keep their salaries secret - even claiming their children will be bullied at school if the six-figure sums are made public.
The excuse is being used by local authorities to keep taxpayers in the dark about executive pay rises at a time when council tax bills have risen by up to 12 per cent a year.
Disclosing the names and pay of top earners would "prejudice an individual's spouse and children", leaving them "vulnerable to approaches from aggrieved people who perceive their level of payment to be a waste of public money", according to one local authority.
Publication could be viewed as an "invasion of privacy" under the European Convention on Human Rights, according to Hampshire County Council. A spokesman said employees' children could be subjected to playground bullying.
Corin Taylor, the head of research at the pressure group TaxPayers' Alliance, said councils should be made to publish precise pay data. All public companies, government departments and quangos have to reveal the names and salaries of top earners.
However, councils are required only to publish tables listing how many are paid in each £10,000 salary bracket.
Mr Taylor said: "The secrecy of councils like Hampshire is clearly an affront to democracy."
The Alliance asked 200 of Britain's 500 councils for the names and salaries of staff paid more than £100,000; 30 failed to disclose this data.
The best-paid official in local government last year was the head of Liverpool City Council, Sir David Henshaw. In his final year in office, he was paid more than £360,000.