| 17°C Belfast

Revealed: 26 top officials in Northern Ireland councils earn more than £100k a year

Close

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell

A total of 26 council staff in Northern Ireland received financial packages worth more than £100,000 last year.

This includes seven working for Belfast City Council and four in both Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

A report from right-wing pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance revealed that for 2018/19, a total of £3,197,834 was spent on 26 senior staff who received packages over £100,000.

This includes pension contributions and expenses, compared to 20 council staff who received packages over £100,000 for 2017/18.

The top earner remained Belfast City Council's chief executive Suzanne Wylie, who received a total remuneration of £169,575, including a pension contribution of £27,075.

Other top earners included Newry, Mourne and Down chief executive Liam Hannaway, who received a package of £147,725.

This included a £7,500 bonus, £400 in expenses and £22,325 in pension contributions.

Antrim and Newtownabbey's chief executive Jacqui Dixon received £143,825, including £4,000 listed as 'other' and £22,325 towards her pension.

No figures were included for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, as David Burns was appointed as the new chief executive in September 2018 and had yet to take a full year's salary for the 2018/19 reporting period.

According to the TaxPayers' Alliance, he was paid £40-45,000 and is eligible for a salary of up to £105,000.

As part of measures to offset the financial pressure caused by coronavirus restrictions businesses here have been given a three-month rates holiday.

Domestic rates have also been frozen for 2020/21, meaning homeowners won't see any further increase in their rates bill.

Duncan Simpson from the TaxPayers' Alliance said increased pressure on households meant the rates freeze was "entirely appropriate", even though the income of local authorities across the UK are taking "an immediate hammering".

He added that all councils should seek to reduce the highest salaries for officials in the long term.

"Realistically, such reductions would have to be voluntary if done right away," he said.

"So we don't think a reduction in remuneration right now is feasible, but this should nevertheless be the ambition for all councils in the future."

The group's chief executive John O'Connell added: "There are plenty of talented people in local authorities who are focused on delivering more for less, but that is needed across the board. The country needs every council to cut out waste and prioritise key services without resorting to punishing tax hikes on their residents.

"These figures should shine a light on the town hall bosses who've got it right, but also allow taxpayers to hold to account those who aren't delivering value for money at this critical time."

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said salaries for chief executives in Northern Ireland's 11 councils were set independently as part of a "robust and independent" job evaluation exercise.

They added Ms Wylie's salary took account that Belfast is the largest local council, and was benchmarked against comparable posts in the public sector.

Other considerations included an independent evaluation of job roles of directors in Belfast City Council, and attracting the necessary calibre of senior staff to City Hall.

Pension contributions are set by the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee.

Remuneration levels for all senior staff in Belfast City Council are published annually. The spokesperson added that the council and senior management team was focused on delivering essential public services and supporting residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

This includes a new virtual community hub, including a dedicated helpline (0800 587 4695) to help coordinate delivery of food parcels, provide advice on jobs and benefits, practical assistance such as collecting prescriptions, and offering emotional support if needed.

Belfast Telegraph