The pay of company executives has increased by an average of 12% in the last financial year, more than four times that of other workers, despite the economic downturn, according to a study.

The High Pay Centre think tank said the average pay of chief executives trebled over the past decade, in the face of the banking crisis, recession and public anger over bonuses.

Despite promises of government action, little has changed, with shareholders struggling to rein in excessive payments, the report said.

executives pay

In an era of austerity, company executives are still seeing rises in pay

Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre, said: "There has been no clear change in the boardroom culture and no recognition that these pay awards are unacceptable.

"It's wrong that Britain's bosses are taking home more and more money as their companies shrink, their employees are squeezed and jobs are being lost.

"Chief executives are hoping that their big bonus and their inflated rewards culture will escape attention now that the banking crisis has passed.

"These pay increases are damaging to the economy and to the morale of Britons struggling to make a living."

Most of the growth in top pay in recent years has been in bonuses, shares, long-term incentive plans and new "innovative" wage structures, the report said.

A Department for Business spokesman said: "We have taken firm action to reform the framework for executive pay, so that shareholders have the right tools to challenge companies when pay is excessive.

"In June this year we confirmed the most comprehensive reforms of the governance of directors' pay in a decade, meaning that for the first time, shareholders will have a real, binding vote on pay and more control over payments for failure. We have also published for comment, new regulations on pay reporting, to ensure that pay reports are much clearer, including a single figure for total pay and more on how pay links to performance."