Friday 22 September 2017

Coveney boosts his leadership hopes with pay rises

Mr Coveney has agreed sweeping changes to the system of councillors’ pay. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Coveney has agreed sweeping changes to the system of councillors’ pay. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Councillors are to get a new €1,000 annual payment along with significant increases in their expenses under plans being introduced by Housing Minister Simon Coveney.

In a move that will boost his Fine Gael leadership credentials, Mr Coveney has agreed sweeping changes to the system of councillors' pay.

A new payment of €1,000 is expected to be paid from April to members of so-called 'municipal districts'.

These districts are all outside of the larger cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway.

They were introduced in 2014 following changes to the boundaries of local authorities.

On top of the new payment, councillors will in some cases see their expenses doubled.

Currently, councillors can avail of an annual unvouched sum of up to €2,667 to cover expenses other than travel and subsistence.

But Mr Coveney is to increase this amount to €5,000, as long as it is vouched for.

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This means that combined with the €1,000 payment, some councillors are in line to receive an additional €3,500 a year.

The expenses system will also be brought in line with the system that applies in the Oireachtas.

Councillors will be able to claim expenses for the likes of leaflet and newsletter distribution, computer costs, hiring rooms for clinics or other meetings, and advertising for the purchase of secretarial support.

The move by Mr Coveney comes after widespread lobbying from Fine Gael senators and councillors for a pay increase on the back of what they see as a major increase in their workload since the previous government scrapped 80 town councils and cut their numbers from 1,627 to 949.

However, the minister's positive response is sure to be interpreted as an attempt to curry favour with party councillors, who will have a vote in any upcoming leadership contest.

While councillors make up just 10pc of the overall leadership vote, they are seen as being influential in the final result.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has already introduced changes to the PRSI system, which has improved councillors' conditions.

The changes were communicated to councillors by Fine Gael representative Bobby O'Connell, who is general secretary of the Local Authorities Members Association (LAMA).

Irish Independent

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