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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

'Not the highest paid, not by a long shot' says MEA Council Chief

Interim chief executive of Mid and East Antrim  Borough Council, Valerie Watts.

Interim chief executive of Mid and East Antrim

Borough Council, Valerie Watts.

The interim chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has said that her salary is not the highest of Northern Ireland’s 11 local authorities - “not by a long shot”.

Responding to a query during a public question and answer session at last week’s meeting of the council at The Braid, in Ballymena, interim chief executive Valerie Watts said:

“The Mid and East Antrim Borough Council chief executive is not the highest paid chief executive out of the 11 councils in Northern Ireland, not by a long shot.”

In a submitted question, a resident asked: “How do you justify being the highest paid salary for a chief executive whilst also almost double the rates increase of other councils?”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed an increase of 9.78% for domestic rates and 11.86% for non-domestic rates for the 2024/25 financial year.

The interim chief executive said:

“This council always has adhered and still adheres to the JNC (Joint Negotiating Committee) chief executive salary scales. The amount paid to the authority’s chief executive is published in the council’s annual statement of accounts.”

Valerie Watts joined Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on 13th June 2022. The annual statement of accounts says the full year equivalent salary for the interim chief executive for 2022/23 is between £115,000 and £120,000.

The report on the council’s website states that former chief executive Anne Donaghy OBE “ceased employment with the council on 11th January 2023 following a period of suspension”.

Previous interim chief executive Mark Parkinson was appointed  in February 2022 but left the position after less than a fortnight. Previously, he held the position of deputy chief executive at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

According to the Town Hall Rich List 2024 compiled by the Tax Payers’ Alliance, neighbouring Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s former chief executive Jacqui Dixon MBE’s salary was listed as £122,500 with expenses/benefits of £12,800 for 2022/23.

Mrs Dixon retired from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in October 2023. The current chief executive is Richard Baker who is the former corporate director at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.


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