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Thursday 8 December 2016

Councillors tell Varadkar: give us access to extra social benefits

Published 12/08/2016 | 02:30

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar: Budget measure. Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar: Budget measure. Photo: Tom Burke

The country's councillors have told Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar they want access to additional social benefits in the upcoming Budget.

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Mr Varadkar last month proposed two options in relation to councillors' pay in a move that is likely to secure him support ahead of the upcoming leadership battle within Fine Gael.

At present, councillors take home gross salaries of just over €16,500 per annum, plus expenses.

Under the current system, they pay a 4pc PRSI rate known as Class K but aren't entitled to any benefits.

The first option tabled by the Dublin West TD would see councillors cease paying PRSI entirely.

The second option would see councillors still paying PRSI, but at S Class, which means they would be entitled to benefits such as the contributory pension.

Mr Varadkar asked the two main bodies representing councillors - the Local Authority Management Association (Lama) and the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) - to select their preferred option.

Lama members were said to be split over the issue but the AILG chose the access to greater benefits option.

Mr Varadkar has said he will introduce the measure in the Budget so that it will come into effect in the Finance Bill in January.

Mr Varadkar's announcement last month to introduce a review into councillors' pay was viewed as his first real move for the leadership.

Councillors make up 10pc of the vote in the upcoming Fine Gael leadership contest, but they are seen as being particularly important in terms of influencing TDs, senators and grassroots members.

However, there is growing resentment among some of Mr Varadkar's ministerial colleagues over some of his public pronouncements.

Reforms

Aside from councillors' pay, he was accused of going on a solo run after he announced significant future reforms to the social welfare system that weren't contained in the ­Programme for Government.

He also pledged that the State would pay a higher rate to ­jobseekers who have just ­become unemployed.

Last month, Mr Varadkar said he was waiting for the moment when he "sits on the toilet" and it gets linked to the Fine Gael leadership race.

"No matter what I say or do for the last six months people are linking it to the leadership of Fine Gael," he said. "I'm just waiting for the moment that I sit on the toilet and some commentator somewhere decides that's part of some sort of strategy."

Irish Independent

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