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Retrograde step on TDs' expenses

Brendan Howlin's decision to increase the amount TDs can spend on secretarial and PR services is a retrograde step.

With public anger at TDs' extravagant expenses at close to boiling point, agreeing to increases that could effectively cost the taxpayer a further €1m a year sets a dreadful example.

As we report today, TDs were on average managing to spend only two-thirds of their "unvouched" (that is they didn't have to produce receipts) annual expenses of €25,700. The logical response from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to this situation should have been to cut the unvouched expenses allowance to the amount that TDs were actually spending.

Instead Mr Howlin has allowed TDs to spend the money they were unable to spend on unvouched expenses on hiring an extra secretaries and public relations consultants instead.

For a minister whose job is supposed to be reforming Ireland's sclerotic public services, Mr Howlin's failure to recoup the expenses TDs weren't claiming appears at odds with the era of cost-cutting.

After all, it's not as if TDs, who are paid an annual salary of almost €93,000 and other expenses of almost €38,000 are poorly provided for.