Thursday 19 October 2017

Councillors to win boost in pay and expenses package

Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Colm Mahady/Fennell
Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Colm Mahady/Fennell
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Councillors are in line to receive a boost in their pay and expenses package of up to €3,500.

The go-ahead has been agreed for July 1, the Sunday Independent has confirmed.

It comes after a majority of TDs accepted a €2,700 salary increase earlier this month.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney moved to introduce the changes last year.

His plan ran into difficulty, and was withdrawn after Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe expressed concerns about the proposals.

However, Minister Coveney subsequently secured Government approval to press ahead with the changes.

Under the plan councillors will receive an increase in the fixed allowance used to cover work related expenses.

This increase will amount to about €2,500.

Elected members are currently able to avail of a fixed annual allowance to cover expenses - other than travel and subsistence,

This amounts to between €2,286 and €2,667 a year.

At present, this expense figure is unvouched meaning receipts do not have to be provided.

However, when the new system come into effect, each elected member may choose to continue receiving the current unvouched fixed allowance, or opt for a revised scheme.

The new allowance will be up to a maximum of €5,000 per annum, but will operate on a fully vouched basis.

As per the revised deal councillors will be able to claim for items under a range of headings.

These include leaflet and newsletter distribution, computer costs, hiring rooms for clinics or other meetings, plus advertising and costs associated with employing 'secretarial support'.

Separately, a new 'municipal district allowance' of €1,000 will be paid to certain councillors.

This will apply to elected members of authorities that have municipal districts which were created when town councils were abolished.

This means all councillors, except in the Cork and Galway local authorities, plus the four in Dublin, will be able to avail of the new payment.

A spokesman for Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the revised allowances reflected "additional work" carried out by members since the 2014 reforms were introduced in local government.

He has now confirmed both measures will take place on July 1.

Cllr Bobby O'Connell, secretary general of the Local Authority Members Association, said while the changes are welcome, he believes all councillors should receive the agreed additional allowance of €1,000.

"The biggest problem we have is that the city councillors are excluded - we're still trying to negotiate with the Minister in relation to that issue. There are over 200 people affected. The Minister has agreed to look at it again but he hasn't promised anything."

Councillors now also have access to a range of social welfare benefits, including the State pension and maternity benefits, under legislative changes, previously introduced by Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar.

Sunday Independent

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