Wiltshire Council chief executive Andrew Kerr has bowed to public pressure and is turning down a £6,000 pay rise.

The boss was under fire after the Times revealed he was in line for a pay rise while a further 100 council jobs were being axed.

Mr Kerr had defended the increase, which would bring his annual salary to £189,000, throughout the week, even appearing on BBC Points West on Monday.

But during the full council meeting at the Olympiad Leisure Centre in Chippenham the following morning, council leader Jane Scott revealed Mr Kerr had changed his mind.

She said: “He has listened to the strong feeling of the staff of this council and agrees that accepting a pay increase during this difficult time is not appropriate.”

Mr Kerr, who was applauded at the meeting for his decision, said on Wednesday he made the decision after reading comments posted online. “I thought long and hard over the weekend and on Monday night about what I was doing,” he said.

“I had thought it was the right thing to do to accept the increment and I am still quite bullish about what I get paid, I think I am worth what I get paid. But I could see how taking a pay rise in circumstances where some people did not have that choice might be a wrong thing to do.

“I listened to some people at work and I looked at the comments people made online and in blogs and reached the decision not to take the increment. I have also decided it would not be the right thing to do next year either.”

He said he had not been put under pressure and the decision was entirely his own.

Liberal Democrat leader Jon Hubbard said: “I’m delighted he has done the decent thing, which sends the right message to staff.

“It’s a shame it took what happened in the media and an outcry by the public to convince him to do the right thing.

“The question is why did the Conservative administration offer it to him in the first place.

“Although I’m not defending Mr Kerr it is important we don’t make him a scapegoat for their error of judgement.

“Every now and then an issue strikes a chord with the public and people pick up the phone and ring me. This was one of those issues.”

Cllr Scott said the pay rise was part of Mr Kerr’s contract. She said: “There was nothing I could do to influence him because the rise was a part of his contract.”