Wednesday 21 February 2018

Councillor was paid €145k in two years

Fine Gael Councillor John Buttimer out canvassing for votes in Cork
Fine Gael Councillor John Buttimer out canvassing for votes in Cork

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

THE country's highest-paid councillor has said there should be accountability on how scarce public funds are spent.

Fine Gael's John Buttimer, who sits on Cork City Council, was paid a total of €145,091 in 2012 and 2013.

He took a voluntary 10pc cut in salary because the city council was reducing services, and said his expenses claims were very low in previous years.

"You're looking at the salary paid as lord mayor, I served from June 2012 to June 2013, and the representational payments (salary)," he said.

"If you look at my record for expenses for the previous years I would be one of the lower councillors, and claim the representational payment and nominal other expenses. The lord mayor's salary would be a misrepresentation of my payments.

"I was also the first lord mayor to take a 10pc cut in salary, which was at my suggestion. It was because as a council we were introducing cuts and I felt it was appropriate."

The bulk of the money, €93,238, was paid in allowances when he served as the city's lord mayor. The additional payments included the representational payment, or salary, totalling €34,647, a payment as chairman of the City Development Board totalling €6,000 and expenses amounting to €10,678.

Another payment of €524 was made to cover the cost of a trip to San Francisco in 2013.

In 2012, a total of €71,398 was claimed. The following year, it amounted to €73,691.

Cllr Buttimer said the party provided some training, and while he sat on the HSE South regional health forum, most meetings were held in city hall so he did not claim expenses.

He took a year-long leave of absence from work when serving as mayor.

"I would try to source training locally in Cork, where conferences are provided, while Fine Gael would also provide training," he said.

"I feel I can develop my own skills and expertise without attending conferences. People bring back reports from conferences and I can learn from them."

Cork City Council has an annual budget of €170m a year, and some €145,000 was allocated for conferences. Cllr Buttimer said there should be full transparency in outlining the spend.

"Local authorities spend public money and have to be accountable," he said.

"We reduced the allocation for expenses in our budget meeting by approximately 10pc. As a council we have to reflect the reality of what's going on. The Local Government Fund has been reduced.

"If the commercial rate base is struggling, and tenants are struggling to pay rents, and there's a recruitment embargo, we have to be mindful on how we spend public money.

"I come from a public sector background. I operate in a world of Freedom of Information and my attitude is everything I do as a public representative should be available. I believe expenses should be published on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, and it should happen in every local authority.

"Some difficulties the charity sector are undergoing could have been avoid if the expenditure and revenue was properly explained," said Cllr Buttimer.

Irish Independent

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