Invest Northern Ireland defends Alastair Hamilton pay deal
Invest Northern Ireland has defended a new pay deal for its chief executive Alastair Hamilton.
TUV leader Jim Allister has criticised an above inflation increase for Mr Hamilton.
It consolidates his bonus into a salary of between £185,000 and £190,000 a year.
It represents an increase of between £25,000 and £30,00 a year for Mr Hamilton, who is tasked with developing the local economy.
The chairman of Invest NI Mark Ennis said the pay deal is justified given Mr Hamilton's record of attracting jobs.
"We're delivering, we're the most successful region outside of London in attracting inward investment," Mr Ennis said.
"What do you need to attract jobs into Northern Ireland? You need strong leadership."
Mr Hamilton is now one of the highest paid executives in the NI public sector, with a bigger salary than the first minister.
The deal represents a rise in his basic pay of between 16 to 19%.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader (TUV), Jim Allister said: "I'm appalled, as I believe generally the public will be at a time of public austerity, that the chief executive of Invest NI scoops what's shy of a 20% increase in his salary to take him to £190,000, which puts him in the same bracket as the prime minister.
"This public sector chief executive is getting an increase which equates to the annual earnings, or is maybe more, than a nurse or many teachers," the MLA added.
Until now Mr Hamilton's basic salary was £160,000, but on top of that he was entitled to an annual performance-related bonus worth up to another 30% of his salary.
That bonus element of his pay required ministerial approval.
Last year there was controversy when Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, signed off on it during her final day in office before the Assembly election.
In the end, Mr Hamilton decided not to accept the £36,000 bonus pending the outcome of a review.
Mr Hamilton's pay is now significantly higher than Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, who receives £111,000 a year.
It also compares favourably with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose basic salary is around £145,000.
Invest NI said that by removing the bonus, Mr Hamilton's overall package has actually fallen by nine per cent.
As its chief executive, Mr Hamilton presides over the running of the economic development agency which is responsible for growing companies, industry and jobs in Northern Ireland.
Invest NI has an annual budget of about £150m, funded by the Stormont Executive.
The agency provides financial support and expert advice to new and existing companies.
Before he joined Invest NI, Mr Hamilton had a career as a senior executive with BT.
He was also a special adviser to the former First Minister, Ian Paisley.