Saturday 3 December 2016

Councillors want secretaries to take calls

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

NEW SURVEY: Alan Kelly. Photo: Gerry Mooney
NEW SURVEY: Alan Kelly. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Councillors want better offices, secretaries to answer their phones and computer software to allow them to work from home, according to a new government report.

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Politicians polled as part of a review of local government reforms complained they have the workload of a TD and receive "totally inadequate" travel expenses.

The research compiled for acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly found councillors, who are paid a €16,500 annual salary, work on average 32 hours per week.

The review was established after major changes to the local government system were introduced, including the abolition of 80 town councils.

It found that fewer councillors are now working in larger constituencies and representing more voters, while pay has not increased.

The report recommends a "financial response" to address the additional work taken on by councillors.

Mr Kelly is understood to have received the report but has so far not brought it before the Cabinet.

The report comes as councillors are seeking to have their pay increased by 40pc to compensate for the increased responsibilities.

The Local Government Forum survey found the majority of councillors (57pc) believe the local authority reforms have resulted in unreasonable workloads for elected members.

"The workload has increased substantially and travelling expenses are totally inadequate," one councillor is quoted as saying in the survey. Another said advances in technology had increased the amount of work they do as constituents have easier access to councillors through email.

"Significantly increased workload due to the enlarged area and the disappearance of two urban councils in the district, as well as the fact that due to improved technology all constituents have easy access to contact council members now - email," a councillor said.

Asked what services could be introduced to help them carry out their roles, almost a quarter of councillors replied "secretarial support for replying to phone calls".

One in five said improved office facilities and 17pc said additional resources for in-house training.

Another 13pc indicted computer support so they could work from home as the service they would like to see introduced.

Those polled also complained about the amount of local politicians employed by the State.

"We need less councillors with more powers," one respondent said.

"A lot of time wasted by councillors repeating each other and playing to the media," another said.

Sunday Independent

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