A SENIOR county council boss has been promoted to the role of chief executive - with a £65,000 pay rise.

Phil Halsall’s £195,000 wage is the same level as outgoing boss Ged Fitzgerald, who is moving to Liverpool City Council.

The appointment, which was not advertised, has drawn criticism from a Government minister, while unions branded the salary ‘sickening’ amid warnings of widespread job losses.

Howevever, bosses said they were saving a total of £148,000 a year - when wage and other costs were taken into account - by abolishing Mr Halsall’s current job title, executive director of resources.

Finance director Gill Kilpatrick is being given a pay rise of £15,000 - up to around £90,000 - because she is taking on extra responsibilities as part of the shake-up.

County Hall is currently trying to find savings of £180million as it faces losing up to a quarter of its total budget.

Thousands of jobs are said to be at risk.

Mr Halsall, 52, who was previously in charge of resources at Liverpool City Council, has been at Lancashire County Council since 2009.

He said he was ‘pleased and honoured’ at his new job, where he will be in charge of 42,000 staff.

The coalition Government has pledged to cut down on high salaries in local government.

Conservative local government minister Bob Neill urged members to 'think carefully' about the decision at the next full council meeting.

He told the Lancashire Telegraph: “A bumper £65,000 pay rise will strike the vast majority of people in Lancashire as excessive particularly at a time when councils should be concentrating on reducing costs.”

In 2008 the council spent £80,000 with recruitment firms before taking on Mr Fitzgerald.

Conservative council leader Geoff Driver said he could not ‘justify the time or expense’ of advertising the post externally because Mr Halsall was the ‘strongest possible successor’.

Yesterday his appointment was backed by the leaders of the opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat groups.

But Sandra Blight, a regional officer for the GMB union, said: “It’s sickening news when we’ve got so many people potentially losing their jobs.”