Councillors in Northern Ireland picked up more than £8 million in allowances in a year, according to a new report by the TaxPayers' Alliance.
The amount includes both the basic maximum and special allowances, with the average ranging from £15,508 in Antrim and Newtownabbey, to nearly £19,400 in Newry, Mourne and Down.
The overall total was £8,224,000.
Spend on allowances over the year ending June 2019 ranged from approximately £664,000 in Ards and North Down, to just over £1m in Belfast, the report by the right-wing pressure group found.
The total includes a basic of £14,775 to each councillor, to those with special responsibilities, the chair and vice chairs of committees, mileage and mayoral allowances.
The basic allowance, set down by law, rose to £15,071 for the year 2019/2020.
According to the report, the highest basic allowance in the UK is to Scottish councillors, who receive £16,994, while Welsh local representatives are entitled to £13,600.
In total, £255m was spent on allowances to councillors across the UK over the year.
"Taxpayers in Northern Ireland will be surprised to discover how much councillors' special relationship allowances vary from one council to the next," TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell said.
"Why do some Belfast councillors get nearly £30,000 in special payments per year when their counterparts in neighbouring Antrim and Newtownabbey carry out their duties for a £5,000 additional allowance? With the country facing a deep recession, councillors must keep down these taxpayer-funded allowances to ease the burden on hard-pressed households."
However, the £29,000 in Belfast was the mayoral spend, around £5,000 less than budgeted for, while the Antrim and Newtownabby figure was a special responsibility allowance to a committee chair. The mayoral spend by the borough was just over £11,000.
The allowance is set by the Department for Communities and independently benchmarked, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (Nilga) noted.
"It recognises a time commitment of councillors - typically they are engaged in council and constituent business in excess of 50 hours per week, including such inevitable calls on their time," said Nilga's Derek McCallan.
"They are also making decisions on vital services, infrastructure and investment.
"Calculated on an hourly basis, this payment is obviously small, proportionate to the demands of the role and the time required to do it. The overall cost is - set against all other forms of political governance - modest and justifiable, set against the responsibilities, time and resilience required for working all year and being permanently on call.
"It is not enough to attract new councillors and therefore is a concern for those interested in being a councillor, local government, local representation and local democracy.
"Many who are interested just cannot afford to do it, and many would not want to deal with the stress involved in this particularly important public service."