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Never mind the mind-boggling formula for gratuities - voters will be baffled they exist at all

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The highest gratuity payment was made to Limerick City Councillor Pat Kennedy

The highest gratuity payment was made to Limerick City Councillor Pat Kennedy

The highest gratuity payment was made to Limerick City Councillor Pat Kennedy

THE system used to calculate parachute payments for former local politicians who lose their seats or retire is mind-boggling in its complexity.

Most former councillors benefiting from the payment freely admit they have little idea how it is worked out.

Under the retirement gratuity scheme, councillors need just two years' service to qualify for a payment.

For city and county councillors who were elected after 2010, the gratuity is a fifth of the current representational payment. This is the €16,720 they get as a basic payment for sitting on the council, so the gratuity works out at €3,344 for each year on the council.

Former members of town and borough councils, which have now been abolished, get a reduced payment which depends on the size of their council.

The maximum gratuity after 20 years in a council is capped at four times the annual representational payment and it can't be paid before the ex-councillor turns 50, unless they have "a permanent infirmity of mind or body".

Additional years can be added to beef up the payments and there is a convoluted set of criteria for this.

Ex-councillors who were first elected before 2000 also qualify for additional ex-gratia payments worth €714.23 per year for the first 20 years and €476.15 per year thereafter, up to a maximum of 40 years in total. In practice this has meant payments of just under €65,000 for long-serving county councillors and just under €17,000 for long-time town councillors.

This was all worked out 15 years ago in negotiations between the Government and councillor representative bodies.

It is fair to wager many voters will be baffled not just by the formula involved, but the fact the gratuity payment exists at all.

When you consider that 20 of our local authorities are technically insolvent and relying on overdrafts to meet day-to-day costs, citizens have every right to question why €11.6m has been spent cushioning the blow for ex-councillors departing office.

It is hard to see why former Environment Minister Phil Hogan baulked at getting rid of the payments when he had no problem taking the scissors to so much else in the local authority system.

Irish Independent