Belfast Telegraph

Fury over £100k wage packets for 15 council chiefs in Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

At least £1.5million was shared between 15 senior officials at Northern Ireland councils last year, a report has claimed.

Each earned a minimum £100,000, prompting criticism of inflation-busting public sector salaries.

The pay packets are more than four times the size of those for a typical full-time worker in Northern Ireland.

The details emerged in a report compiled by the TaxPayers' Alliance pressure group, which examined pay at councils across the UK.

Three councils had two officials on £100,000-plus a year, researchers found. These were the former Ards Borough Council, Ballymena Borough Council and Derry City Council.

The number of officials drawing six-figure salaries has risen significantly compared to previous years, when they numbered between one and three.

It is probable that many packages rose because of severance payments linked to the transition from 26 to 11 district councils.

However, TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive, Jonathan Isaby, said the revelations would anger people faced with rates hikes and reduced services.

"Local authorities that are providing more for less clearly have talented people at the helm, but ratepayers living in poorly performing areas will be furious at the scale of some of these massive pay awards," he said.

"After more than a decade of reckless spending and rate hikes, local politicians now have to make necessary savings and the pay and perks for the town hall elite have to come under the spotlight.

"We all deserve to know how our money is being spent, and ratepayers should have the right to decide if they are getting value for their money from public servants."

A typical full-time worker in Northern Ireland earned about £24,000 last year, according to a government survey. The TaxPayers' Alliance found that, across the UK, 3,483 council staff were on more than £100,000. Some 537 earned more than £150,000, 106 received £200,000 or over, while 10 pocketed £300,000.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association, the umbrella body for councillors, said the local figures were "small in total and proportionate terms".

Its chief executive, Derek McCallan, said: "The figures from the TaxPayers' Alliance relate to the final year of the legacy (26) councils.

"Substantial work was carried out around severance schemes for officers, new responsibilities of councils, new organisational design, additional powers and services being transferred to councils in Northern Ireland, combined working by some senior officers across two or more councils, all in the run up to the new, 11-council structure effective in 2015/16."

Mr McCallan said councils' number one priority must be delivering high quality services at affordable costs.

"Pay freezes, wage restraint, outsourcing, shared services, planning priorities with the community itself and many more initiatives have demonstrated that councils in Northern Ireland are prudent and innovative - as have average rates increases at or below the rate of inflation, over the past half decade," he added.

Mr McCallan said appropriate rates of pay meant senior personnel could guide councils to set new and ambitious targets, such as investment into communities.

"To be competitive and to lead, you have to invest in people as well as services. That's what our councils are doing," he added.

The 26 councils were cut to 11 in April as part of the Department of Environment's reform of local government. The number of councillors also dropped from 582 to 462, while a number of staff were handed redundancy packages.

In August this newspaper revealed how a pay-off scheme set up for retiring councillors had handed out more than £2.2m in golden handshakes.

Belfast Telegraph


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