Varadkar starts the ball rolling on pay, benefits hike for councillors
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar will today formally kickstart the process of boosting councillors' pay.
Mr Varadkar has struck a deal with the body representing local authority members which will see them receive social benefits for the first time.
The move brings councillors in line with other self-employed workers and means they will be entitled to a range of benefits including the State pension, widow and widowers pension and maternity and paternity payments.
At present, councillors take home gross salaries of just more than €16,500 per annum, plus expenses.
Under the system, councillors pay a 4pc PRSI rate known as K Class but aren't entitled to any benefits.
The move by Mr Varadkar brings councillors in line with other self-employed workers who are classified under S Class.
The measures will be announced as part of the Social Welfare Bill, which details many of the spending measures announced as part of Budget 2017.
Councillors will be entitled to the new benefits from January.
The deal was announced in a letter sent to councillors on Sunday by the Local Authority Members' Association.
"This brings to an end the profoundly unfair position whereby local authority members paid PRSI but in return received no benefits," wrote the association's General Secretary councillor Bobby O'Connell.
"This change to the PRSI class will finalise what has long been a source of discontentment for councillors. LAMA will continue to work towards equitable pay and allowances for councillors that reflect the long hours and distances covered by councillors in conducting their duties as a public representative," he added.
Politically, the move will be seen as Mr Varadkar stepping up his leadership bid.
Councillors make up 10pc and the vote in any upcoming Fine Gael leadership contest, but they are seen as being particularly important in terms of influencing TDs, senators and grassroots members.
The move taken this week regarding councillors' benefits will heap pressure on Local Government Minister Simon Coveney, who has the power to increase councillors' core pay.
As previously revealed by the Irish Independent last month, Mr Coveney was forced to delay his plans to announce a €1,000 hike in the annual pay of councillors following an intervention by his Cabinet colleague Paschal Donohoe. Mr Donohoe was concerned about the optics of such a move given the industrial unrest involving gardai and other groups.