17 senior council officials in Northern Ireland earned over £100k last year
A total of 17 senior council officials in Northern Ireland received financial packages totalling more than £100,000 last year.
Seven of them were working for Belfast City Council, a report has revealed.
The TaxPayers' Alliance analysis, covering the 2016-17 year, showed Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie was the top earner with a total remuneration of £159,000, including £26,500 in employer pension contributions.
The spending watchdog, which examined pay packets at councils across the UK, criticised the high remuneration.
Its chief executive, John O'Connell, said: "Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages."
He added: "There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities."
A spokesman for Belfast City Council said the salaries for chief executives in Northern Ireland's 11 councils were set independently "as part of a robust and independent job evaluation" during local government reform in 2015.
He said Ms Wylie's salary takes into account the fact that Belfast City Council is the largest council in Northern Ireland and was also benchmarked against other comparable public sector posts.
The higher salaries of other directors in the council, he said, were also set after an independent evaluation of the job roles and the scale of the functions the directors are responsible for in a city authority.
"This also took account of the ability to attract the necessary calibre of senior staff to these roles," he said.
He explained the council was also obliged to pay the pension contributions listed which were set by the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee.
Employees have the choice to opt out of the scheme. He added that all directors and the CEO make a 10.5% salary contribution to their pension schemes. He said two of the individuals listed in the TaxPayers' Alliance report - Jil Milne and Phil Williams - no longer worked for the council.
Belfast City Council also publish its audited accounts annually, including remuneration levels of all senior staff. The joint second highest-earning council staff in Northern Ireland were Roger Wilson and Liam Hannaway - the respective chief executives of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, and Newry, Mourne and Down District Councils - who each receive £141,000, including £23,500 for pensions.
NILGA, the organisation that represents local government in Northern Ireland, said the pay packets were "once again proportionately lower on all levels than is the case in England, Scotland and Wales".
A spokesperson said less council staff were earning the generous pay packets despite increased responsibility in the roles of senior officers.
"NILGA considers it absolutely essential that quality assured and nationally agreed (by employers, unions, labour relations and independent market testing) processes ensure fair pay and strong performance at all times within councils," he said.
"This is not just given the situation at other levels of government, but because local investment by local people in local places is the most efficient model and this requires versatile, motivated and productive people, as befits any modern, forward-thinking, democratic region."
NI council staff earning more than £100,000
Belfast City Council
- Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive - total remuneration of £159,000 including £26,500 in employer pension contribution.
- Ronan Cregan - Director of Finance and resources - £129,000 including £21,500 for pension.
- Gerry Millar - Director of property and projects - £123,000 including £20,500 for pension.
- Nigel Grimshaw - Director of City and Neighbourhood Services - £117,000 including £19,500 for pension.
- Jill Minne - Director of Organisational Development - £117,000 including £19,500 for pension.
- Phil Williams - Director of planning and place - £111,000 including £18,500 for pension.
(Both Jill Minne and Phil Williams have since left the council)
- John Walsh - Town solicitor - £111,000 including £18,500 for pension.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon
Roger Wilson - Chief Executive - £141,000 incl £23,500 for pension.
Newry, Mourne and Down
Liam Hannaway, Clerk and Chief Executive - £141,000 including £23,500 for pension and £100 in other payments.
Ards and North Down
Stephen Reid, Chief Executive - £129,100 including £21,500 for pension.
Antrim and Newtownabbey
Jackie Dixon, Chief Executive - £135,350 including £20,250 in pension and £2,600 in other payments. Only one on the list to receive such a high figure for other payments.
Mid & East Antrim
Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive - £135,350 including £22,500 for pension.
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Dr Theresa Donaldson, Senior management team - £129,600 including £21,600 for pension.
Fermanagh and Omagh
Brendan Hegarty, Senior management team - £127,200 including £21,200 for pension.
Anthony Tohill, Executive management team, senior management - £127,200 including £21,200 for pension.
Derry City and Strabane
John Kelpie, Chief Executive - £130,000 including £22,500 for pension.
Causeway, Coast and Glens
David Jackson, Chief Executive. £123,000 including £20,500 for pension.