independent

Wednesday 24 April 2019

The cost of local government in Louth

Payments and expenses to Louth's 29 councillors

Margaret Roddy

Councillors earned €779,311 in representational payments and expenses in 2018 according to recently released Louth County Council figures.

Each of the 29 councillors received €16,867 in representational payments, which are subject to PAYE, PRSI and other statutory deductions. They also received a new allocation of €1,499.96 for being members of municipal district committees, while there are allowances for councillors who chair the County Council, Municipal Districts and Strategic Policy Committees. Councillors also receive allowances for attending meetings and official functions, and for broadband and phone expenses.

Figures obtained by this newspaper reveal the highest earner for the year was Dromiskin Cllr Liam Reilly who was paid €37,345 before tax. The Fianna Fail councillor's payment included €11,664 for being chairman of Louth County Council for half the year and €2,500 for chairing a municipal district. He received €3,982 in expenses and a broadband and phone allowance of €506.

The second highest earner was Dundalk man Cllr John McGahon who earned €35,685 before tax. The Fine Gael councillor was paid €5,000 as chair of the Dundalk Municipal District and €3,500 for his time as chair of a Strategic Policy Committee. He also received €6,592 in expenses, €506 allowance for phone and broadband, while €585 was spent so he could attend conferences in Ireland and he received €808 for training.

In third place was Drogheda's Labour Cllr Pio Smith was paid €33,446.88 before tax, which included a €5,000 payment for chairing the Drogheda Municipal District and a €1,666 allowances for being vice-chairman of Louth County Council. He also received expenses of €8,096 and €417 for broadband and telephone, and was paid €700 for attending conferences in Ireland and €3,116 expenses for training.

Independent Cllr Frank Godfrey received €31,886 before tax, which included an allowance €7,000 as chair of the Drogheda Municipal District and expenses of €5,263 , with €417 for broadband and phone and €502 to allow him avail of training.

Former chairman Colm Markey was paid €31,598 before tax, which included an €8,333 allowance for his term as chairperson of Louth County Council and €2,500 as Municipal District chair. The Fine Gael councillor's expenses came to €1,907 with €417 for broadband and phone while he clocked up €2,191 for foreign travel for when he travelled to New York for the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Fianna Fail's Cllr Conor Keelan received €31,048 before tax, including a €7,000 allowance for chairing the Municipal District of Dundalk , €4,133 expenses and €417 for broadband and phone. He was the only other councillor to claim for overseas travel, getting €562 for a visit to Spain, and also received €485 for training.

Drogheda Cllr Joanna Byrne was the highest earning Sinn Fein councillor, receiving €30,306 before tax. This included a €6,000 allocation for chairing a Strategic Policy Committee, €5,196 expenses, and a broadband and phone allowance of €417.

The total spent on councillors came to €779,311, which was up on last year's spend of €710,933.19. This year's figure included a new category of allowances for memberships of the municipal district committees which came to €43,498.84 for all 29 councillors. The Department for Local Government said this is in order to reflect the additional work of and expenses incurred by councillors since the introduction of reforms in the Local Government Act (2014), which reduced the number by 41 per cent (from 1,627 to 949).

According to the figures, representational payments came to €489,152.86 and members expenses came to €131,757.14

Training expenses came to €14,313.96 and €1,385.41 was spent on enabling councillors to attend conferences in Ireland. Training is provided to councillors by the Association of Local Government in Ireland and the Local Authority Members Association, while conference fees are paid directly to conference organisers and not to members.

In recent years, many councillors have opted not to attend conferences and to allocate their allowances so that they can give funding to local community groups.

The total allowance for broadband and phone came to €11,466.67.

Councillors receive a monthly allowance for attendance at monthly, annual, Special Policy Committee, Budget, Organisation Procedure & Protocol, deputations and special meetings as part of their representational role. This allowance is subject to the rates and rules of the Annual Expenses Allowance, as set out under Local Government (expenses of Local Authority Members) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 236 of 2014) (as amended).

Five councillors were in receipt of Special Policy Committee chairperson payments. Cllrs Joanna Byrne, Edel Corrigan, Mark Dearey all received €6,000, while Cllrs John McGahon got €3,500 and Maria Doyle received €2,500.

The chairs of the Municipal Districts received a total of €30,000 with payments to Cllr Frank Godfrey (€7,000), Conor Keelan (€7,000), John McGahon (€5,000),Pearse McGeough (€3,500), Liam Reilly (€2,500) and Pio Smith (€5,000).

Other councillors:

EMMA COFFEY: €28,721.

MARK DEARY: €28,947.

MARIANNE BUTLER €26,700.

CONOR KEELAN: €31,048.

MARIA DOYLE:€27,965.

ANNE CAMPBELL: €22,753.

TOMAS SHARKEY: €22,196.

PETER SAVAGE: €23,571.

ANTON WATTERS: €23,203.

EDEL CORRIGAN: €23,072.

MAEVE YORE: €23,034.

RUARI O MURCHU: €22,773.

Drogheda Independent

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