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€80k bill for councillors' Irish conference jaunts

CASH-strapped Dublin City Council is in line to splash out €80,000 this year sending politicians to conferences.

The local authority spent €39,818.37 in the first six months of 2010 covering the expenses of councillors attending the events.

The vast majority of the trips were made to seminars held in Ireland, with only seven of the 61 claims relating to journeys abroad.

Labour's Paddy Bourke, whose attendance at three conferences cost the council €2,090.83, told the Herald he does not claim a specific amount.

"I put in the claim form but the amount is decided on by the finance department in Dublin City Council," Mr Bourke explained.

He said he does not know exactly what he is going to get.

"They have a formula. It works out on the number of nights you're away and the distance between City Hall and the venue.

"It's then based on a mileage allowance -- the maximum size of a car is a 1,600cc. They can be less, it depends on the size of the car. That's a formula I imagine is used by all city and county councils. It's directed by the minister, I would imagine."

He said councillors have "never had to put in receipts" for travel expenses.

"They're unvouched expenses that have been there since Adam was a boy. I usually try to stay in the hotel where the conference is taking place."

Mr Bourke said the format had changed in recent times.

"You claim your expenses after the event now. Prior to this year, you could have got your expenses prior to the event. I think it's a ministerial directive," he explained.