A recent round-up of mayoral and council manager salaries in rural municipalities is raising eyebrows in some quarters, RÚV reports. Per data first published in Viðskiptablaðið and analysed by Vísir, nine of the highest-paid rural mayors and/or district managers earn higher monthly salaries than Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir; 11 earn more than Reykjavík mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson.
Gunnar Einarsson is Iceland’s highest-paid mayor and earns ISK 2.6 million [$20,787; €18,772] a month for overseeing Garðabær, a capital-area town with 16,299 residents. The second-highest salary—or ISK 2.3 million [$18,393; € 16,611] a month—is earned by Gunnar Birgisson, mayor of the North Iceland municipality of Fjallabyggð, which is home to around 2,000 people spread amongst the villages of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður. As a bracing point of comparison, both of these men are paid more than London mayor Sadiq Khan, who earns ISK 1.8 million [$14,392; € 12,999] a month for overseeing a city of nine million people.
The top five highest-earning public officials are based in Garðabær (pop. 16,299), Fjallabyggð (pop. 2,007), Ölfus (pop. 2,153), Bláskógabyggð (pop. 1,121), and Akranes (pop. 7,411). Three of the 15 highest-paid public officials are women. The top eleven earners make higher monthly salaries than Reykjavík mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson, who is paid ISK 1.9 million [$15,192; €13,716] for overseeing a city of 128,793 people.
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has criticized soaring salaries for public officials, while Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson counters that the most important thing is transparency and that elected officials can provide justifications for why they are being paid the salaries they are.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to start trying to centralise these [salaries],” Bjarni remarked. “We call on the responsibility of the municipalities when it comes to wage trends. We have been trying to set limits in the government and parliament because we need to answer for wage trends in the government vis-à-vis the labour market; we don’t want there to be any separation there. But local government[s] must take part in controlling wage creep at the highest level,” he said.
Bjarni did concede, however, that elected officials being at the top of the wage bracket didn’t make sense, “or having higher salaries than comparable responsibility would call for on the open market—it’s the open market that must guide this,” he concluded.