independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Politicians to share €4.5m payout when seats scrapped

Environment Minister Phil Hogan

MORE than 600 councillors are expected to share a €4.5m windfall as part of a radical reform of local government.

Hundreds of town, city and county councillors will receive gratuity payments for losing their seats, with the taxpayer expected to pick up the tab.

And some local authorities will also be forced to expand or build council chambers because the number of local politicians in the area will increase.

CAPITAL

All four local authorities in the capital will see an increase in the number of councillors, including Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (from 28 to 40), Dublin City (from 52 to 63), South Dublin (26 to 40), and Fingal (24 to 40).

There will also be increases in Kildare, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow, Cork County, Kerry, Galway City and Galway County and Donegal.

Dun Laoghaire has previously said it could spend up to €800,000 on a new chamber, but a spokeswoman said no decision had been taken. It is understood that councils will not be given additional funding to provide chambers.

Sitting councillors with more than three years' service will also be compensated for losing their seats.

Retirement gratuities are calculated on 20pc of the annual payment to councillors, capped at four years for those with at least 20 years' service.

Town councillors are paid between €2,281 to €4,181 a year, which is known as a representational payment.

Long-serving councillors could receive up to €16,000 when councils are abolished next August, with minimum payments likely to be around €2,800.

It is understood that councils expect to pay out in the region of €4.5m next August after the councils go, but the final figure is dependent on a range of factors.

"Local authorities will have to make provision, but we don't know how many councillors will run and how many will be re-elected," one source said. "These payments would have to be made anyway in the fullness of time, they're just happening at once."

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said that between €40m and €45m would be saved in the merger of local authorities.

He also said councillors would be given powers to raise finance, by varying the property tax rates by up to 15pc from January 2015.

Some 80pc of the property tax raised in each local authority area would be retained, he said. The remainder will be divided among other councils which did not have strong rates bases or other means of raising finance.

DETAILS

In addition, councillors will be obliged to publish their expenses claims and details of conferences attended every three months. The Environment Minister could also require elected members to attend training courses, and withhold payments if they refused.

Mr Hogan also warned that jobs may be lost in the shake-up.

"I'm not going to subscribe to the policy that everyone keeps their job," the minister, pictured left, said.

"The numbers of staff in local authorities have reduced from 35,000 to 27,000, but we want to ensure we have all the resources we need. We may need more staff, but that's part of workforce planning."

Irish Independent

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