The head of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) is Britain’s highest paid public sector chief executive on £45,000 a month – £540,000 a year – according to reports.

Paid with public money, David Leather is seconded from Ernst & Young, and has held the post for the last four years.

However, the controversy is not just about the amount Leather is paid but about the fact that his salary was not made public by his employer because new government rules that demand disclosure of remuneration for all public sector workers paid more than the Prime Minister do not cover employees who are seconded.

Also, GMPTE has recently announced that it is looking to shed around 15 per cent of staff and raise bus, tram and train fares for children and the elderly.

Steve Warrener, GMPTE’s finance director, said: “We have published the salary information for all the directors employed by GMPTE. This information does not include two contracted directors as they are not paid a salary by GMPTE. The fee paid for the services of a chief executive is the same as the organisation would have paid if we had filled the role permanently. The role was previously advertised at a salary of £200,000.”

And Ernst & Young said in a statement: “Like our competitors, Ernst & Young run an extensive programme of secondments to and from organisations in both the public and private sectors. We do not disclose the individual salaries of our people.”