LAST year, as Kerry struggled in the face of stealth taxes and swingeing cutbacks, the county's politicians cost the taxpayer over €3 million in pay, perks and expenses.
An examination of figures for Oireachteas pay and expenses along with budget figures for Kerry's four local authorities shows that Kerry's 63 elected politicians cost taxpayers a total of €3,026,268 in 2011.
The county's six TDS cost the taxpayer over €766,000, Kerry's five senators shared €328,105 while the county's 52 town and county councillors enjoyed over €1.1 million in expenses, allowances and wages.
Kerry County Council's expenses bill included a €49,000 golden handshake for Deputy Tom Fleming who retired his seat on the council to join Dáil ranks, where he received a further €43,325 in expenses.
When coupled with various perks for TDS and senators, including personal secretaries, assistants, drivers and a €41,000 party leader's allowance which can be claimed by independent TDS the annual cost of Kerry's political class easily breaches the €3 million barrier.
This huge sum was taken from the taxpayers' pocket in the same year that Kerry witnessed the introduction of the household charge, looming septic tank inspections and cuts to social welfare, healthcare, small schools and rural transport.
Just last month the HSE said that it could not afford to provide €100,000 to re-open a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at Kerry General Hospital. That figure represents just three per cent of what Kerry's politicians were paid in 2011.
The figures also bolster Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan's argument in favour of scrapping or at least drastically reducing the number of town councils and scaling back county councils.
Scrapping Kerry's three town councils in Tralee, Killarney and Listowel would save the taxpayer €311,821 a year in councillors' pay and expenses alone. KERRY'S 52 county and town councillors shared more than €1.1 million in pay and expenses last year.
2011 budget figures published by Kerry County Council and the three town councils in Tralee, Killarney and Listowel show that Kerry councillors received a total of €1,121,821 in pay, expenses and allowances in 2011.
The 27 members of Kerry County Council shared out €810,000 in representational payments, annual allowances and travel expenses.
Tralee Town Council's 12 members received a total of €148,000, councillors in Listowel received a total of €78,251 while Killarney town councillors received €84,680.
Five councillors – Labour's Terry O'brien and Gillian Wharton Slattery, Fianna Fail's Norma Foley, Sinn Fein's Toireasa Ferris and Michael Gleeson of the South Kerry Independent Alliance – sit on both Kerry County Council and a Town Council. As such they would be entitled to pay and expenses from both bodies.
County councillors are entitled to a salary, called a "representative payment" of €16,724 per annum as well as an annual allowance based on attendance at 80 per cent of council meetings.
Councillors who act as chairpersons of strategic policy committees are entitled to a payment of €4,997 a year while a councillor chairing a county development board receives a payment of €5,283.
Special allowances are also provided to Mayors and Deputy Mayors. Councillors also receive vouched payments to cover mobile phone costs and foreign travel.
Town councillors receive lower payments. Councillors on an urban or borough council, such as Tralee, are entitled to a representational payment of €8,362. Councillors on smaller town councils receive a representational payment of between €2,281 and €41,81. They also receive a small annual allowance and expenses.