More than 200 council employees in Northern Ireland are on salaries of more than £50,000, a new report has revealed.
The number of high earners has increased by 15 in the past year, with Northern Ireland the only part of the UK to see such a rise.
The figures are set out in a report compiled by the TaxPayers' Alliance pressure group, which reveals almost 30,000 council staff across the UK are on £50,000-plus salaries. Among them are 208 employees in Northern Ireland who earned a total of £13,620,000 during 2011/12. The chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, Matthew Sinclair, said more work was needed to drive down excessive salaries.
He said: "It is incredible that some councils have even increased spending on high earning staff this year."
Belfast City Council – the biggest of the 26 local authorities – has 55 workers earning £50,000-plus salaries, costing £3,625,000 each year. A spokesman said: "Belfast City Council is by far the largest local authority in Northern Ireland and therefore it is not surprising that we have more middle and senior managers than other councils.
"The salaries for managers and senior officers are set through a robust job evaluation system and are subject to national agreement – staff have not received a pay rise for the past three years." Ballymena Borough Council has 18 employees earning over £50,000 with a further 17 at Derry City Council.
The figures are based on analysis from the TaxPayers' Alliance of 12 months to April 2012. Around 28,754 council staff across the UK earned more than £50,000.
In Northern Ireland eight councils registered an increase, seven saw a decrease while there was no change in the other 11.
Eight councils who had an increase in staff on £50,000-plus salaries: Ballymena, Castlereagh, Coleraine, Craigavon, Derry, Lisburn, Magherafelt and North Down.
Seven councils who had a decrease: Ards, Banbridge, Newry, Carrickfergus, Cookstown, Limavady and Newtownabbey.