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'I'm no secret millionaire'... mayor defends a near-doubling of his salary


Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council mayor John Smyth

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council mayor John Smyth

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council mayor John Smyth

A Northern Ireland mayor has spoken out over controversial plans to almost double the post-holder's salary, saying he is "not a secret millionaire".

John Smyth's comments come amid ongoing discussions around increasing the pay of the borough's first citizen by 81%.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has deferred a decision to rise the wage, and that of others, opting to appoint a consultant to assess the cost instead.

Members have delayed approving an increment following criticism over the hike to the mayoral wage.

An annual basic allowance of £15,071 is paid to each councillor. The special allowance rate for the mayor is £13,797 and £9,021 for the deputy mayor.

However, a review has suggested that the mayor is paid less than the national living wage.

It has been reported the mayor's wage would rise from £13,797 to £25,000.

The current mayor, Alderman John Smyth said: "I am Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey and for that honour I receive £13,797 per year. This will finish on June 1, 2020.

"I live in a former Housing Executive house in the Steeple which I pay a mortgage for.

"Anyone that knows me, I have worked all my life and I am not a secret millionaire.

"The Department for Communities has directed a change for councillors' responsibilities and one which all councils will be considering.

"I have never requested a pay increase. I work to represent and support the people of Antrim and the wider borough."

Additional payments ranging from £6,368 to £5,307 are also available to committee chairs in Antrim and Newtownabbey and from £3,183 to £2,653 for vice chairs. All other 10 planning committee members can receive an extra £1,592.

The maximum amount available to the council for distribution for special responsibility is £74,292. It has been recommended that allowances be backdated to October.

Last year's Ulster Unionist mayor, councillor Paul Michael, was paid a total of £25,896 and the DUP's Smyth, then deputy mayor, £22,324.

Alderman Mark Cosgrove proposed the council should look for a consultant to produce a report to enable a recommendation to be considered "rather than approve something that would benefit or not benefit members".

He pointed out that there is "so much variation among councils" on payments and said that it was "important to get it right to make it fair".

"I do not think it would be appropriate to vote on something that directly benefits councillors especially in a pecuniary way," he added.

Some local councils pay their mayor/chair up to £34,800.

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