Councils across Northern Ireland could save tens of thousands of pounds by cutting “unnecessary jobs” like climate change and European officers, according to the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA).
The TPA also claims that positions like political advisors and diversity officers could be axed without putting frontline services at risk.
Unsurprisingly Belfast City Council has the largest spend of Northern Ireland’s 26 councils, with four European officers and two diversity officers costing a total of £271,771 last year.
Newry and Mourne Council spent £80,246 on three diversity officers, North Down forked out £32,085 for one diversity officer while Derry, Craigavon, Cookstown, Moyle and Newtownabbey have one diversity officer at costs of between £2,543 and £35,807.
“Councils need to cut spending and start delivering value for money to hard-working taxpayers, but not all spending cuts affect frontline services,” said Chris Daniel, policy analyst with the TaxPayers' Alliance.
“Many household budgets are under huge pressure and council tax and rates have increased, but this money isn't necessarily going on the services households rely on most.
“Cutting down on staff doing unnecessary jobs is one way councils can save money without affecting those frontline services.
He added: “These jobs are all the result of councils going too far in following the edicts of central Government, instead of focusing on local priorities; or chasing grants that are, in the end, more than paid for by British taxpayers.
“Over time, we should move towards a situation where interference from Whitehall doesn't encourage this sort of waste. But right now councils can deliver better value for money by cutting these jobs.”
Meanwhile, Belfast City Council has defended the expenditure.
“Like all public authorities, Belfast is required by law to promote equality of opportunity and good relations and our diversity officers work across the whole city to ensure our services are accessible to all sections of the community,” a spokeswoman said.
“It is understandable that Belfast is the biggest spender in Northern Ireland because it is also by far the biggest council with a population of 280,000.
“Since its establishment in 2003 our European Unit has accessed over €12m of EU funds to support the work of the council.”