Saturday 16 December 2017

How earnings can stack up for our local politicians

How earnings stack up for local politicians
How earnings stack up for local politicians

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

CITY and county councillors are entitled to claim a number of legitimate payments from local authorities – including expenses to cover the cost of attending council meetings, payments to attend conferences and training courses at home and abroad, and a mobile phone allowance.

They are also paid a salary, called a representational payment. But they can also claim payments for working with other agencies to which they are nominated by virtue of being a councillor.

These include Education and Training Boards (formerly called VECs), third-level institutions, regional authorities, regional assemblies and development agencies including Udaras na Gaeltachta.

CITY AND COUNTY COUNCILS

The biggest payment made to local politicians is their annual salary, called a representational payment, which is capped at €16,565 a year. It is subject to tax, including PAYE and PRSI.

In addition, they also receive an annual expenses allowance which is to cover reasonable expenses incurred by them in the course of their duties.

These include travel to meetings, and the amount is agreed by politicians at their annual budget meeting. Full payment is subject to a councillor attending 80pc of all meetings.

There is also another payment to cover conferences, education and training, which is also agreed in the budget meeting.

There is a statutory cap of €4,700 to cover these costs, and some local authorities have a lower limit. Councillors must secure approval to attend named conferences, and receipts including accommodation and conference fees must be provided.

Travel costs are also covered, and councillors must submit a report to the council on the proceedings covered.

In addition, there is also a mobile phone allowance up to a maximum of €600 a year.

Local authorities also provide a range of payments to councillors who are chairs of strategic policy committees, which are not subject to tax.

There is also a payment for those elected as mayor, or cathaoirleach, of the council, of which 50pc is taxable.

In Cork City, it amounts to more than €70,000 a year, and a driver is also provided. However, these payments vary in each local authority. In many cases, there is also a payment for the deputy mayor.

The chairperson of the county development board, where applicable, also receives a payment which is subject to tax.

In addition, councillors with at least three years' service at the age of 50 who retire, leave or go on to higher office are entitled to a gratuity payment which is subject to tax.

REGIONAL AUTHORITIES

There are eight regional authorities across the country. Established in 1994, each sets aside a number of seats for councillors, which are loosely based on population, and the number of members of each authority ranges from 21 to 37.

They have two main functions – co-ordinating and promoting the delivery and public services across the regions, and monitoring the spending of EU funds.

In addition, they prepare regional economic and social strategies and planning guidelines, and ensure that development plans of individual councils comply with these aims.

There is no salary for sitting on these authorities.

However, expenses to attend meetings – including travel and subsistence – are provided.

REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES

There are also two regional assemblies, established in 1999, and their job is to manage and monitor the spending of EU funds as well as having an oversight role on matters of economic, social and planning policy.

There is no salary, but councillors are paid legitimate expenses incurred in attending meetings.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING BOARDS

Formerly known as Vocational Educational Committees, there are 16 ETBs which provide essential education services including training courses, running and managing second-level schools, pilot community national schools and a wide range of adult and further education centres.

There is no salary, but members are paid expenses for attending meetings and for carrying out interviews.

THIRD-LEVEL COLLEGES

Members of local authorities are also involved in third-level institutions, and while there is no salary, expenses can be claimed.

There is also a fee for conducting interviews. One councillor received more than €25,000 in 2012 and 2013 for carrying out this function.

OTHER

There are a number of other agencies that local politicians are involved in. They include development agencies such as Udaras na Gaeltachta, Inland Fisheries Ireland and HSE regional health forums, which are designed to allow local politicians input into health policy.

Expenses for attending meetings can be claimed.

What they got: Dublin and Leinster – Pages 18-20

Irish Independent

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