Sunday 15 December 2019

People need to appreciate our work and the costs we incur

Comment

Dermot Lacey defended the payments to councillors, but said sums claimed for conferences were an issue. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Dermot Lacey defended the payments to councillors, but said sums claimed for conferences were an issue. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dermot Lacey

There is a tendency for the media to make a meal out of the payments made to city and county councillors across the county.

In fairness though, it should be said that the Irish Independent is better than most in this regard, and I welcome the opportunity to provide my perspective as a councillor.

First of all, I would like to point out that councillors pay tax and PRSI on the representational allowance element of what they receive.

For most councillors this payment, which is capped at €16,565 a year, represents the largest portion of the money they get.

Secondly, people need to have an appreciation for the work we as councillors do and the costs we incur while doing it.

As someone who has sat on Dublin City Council since 1999, I believe that I work hard for and with the community I represent.

I have no problem with councillors being challenged and fairly criticised – we get things wrong. But we also get an awful lot of things right.

In my own case, there is a population of more than 100,000 in my electoral area as compared to electorates of several hundred in some other parts of the country.

As a Dublin city councillor some of the costs I meet, out of pocket, include printing, distribution costs, home office and phone, donations to local organisations, postage, advertising, travel within the constituency, website maintenance, and election costs.

In most of the above, these would be borne by the State if I was an Oireachtas member, or would be recoupable if I was in private business.

Apart from serving as a councillor, I hope that I also play an active and constructive role in my own community and Dublin generally.

At the last count this amounted to over 22 bodies in which I am active in an unpaid capacity.

I seek no benefit or praise for this. I enjoy such work.

However, I do want honesty in media reporting and fairness in their commentary and assessment of our roles and work. Of course we need local government reform and recent legislation has been lukewarm, to say the least, in that regard.

I want to play a part in achieving real progress.

In the meantime, the vast majority of councillors and new candidates knocking on doors over the next few weeks deserve more than cheap and easy shots being thrown at them.

More importantly, the public who we hope to represent deserve an honest and informed coverage of local government issues so that they can make their best choice in the interest of a better Ireland.

Councillor Dermot Lacey is leader of the Labour group on Dublin City Council

Irish Independent

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