herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Councillors seeking 40pc pay hike, more expenses and pension rights

Minister Alan Kelly Photo: Tom Burke
Minister Alan Kelly Photo: Tom Burke

Councillors are seeking a big pay rise, better expenses - and even pensions.

The country's 949 city and county councillors will argue that they have been doing far more work since reforms in the system before the May 2014 local elections reduced their numbers.

This involved the abolition of town councils which got rid of more than 700 local representatives. It also saw the introduction of much bigger city and county electoral areas, which councillors argue increased their workload.

The councillors are also annoyed that their expenses were cut significantly by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

They currently receive a stipend of €16,565 a year that is subject to full tax.

The councillors' representative body, the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG), has told the Environment Department it wants the allowance increased to €23,188 a year - an increase of 40pc.

Generous

They also want more generous travel allowances and better allowances for phone and mobile phone costs.

The claim also includes a first ever bid by councillors to establish pension rights. In the past some were given long-service pay-offs, but a pensions claim breaks new ground.

It is understood that the annual estimated cost of meeting the claims stands at €6m. They are being considered by an expert group on local government workings which was set up by acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Many politicians at Leinster House, including Mr Kelly, are known to be sympathetic to the councillors' claims.

The AILG argues that a survey of its members showed they were working an average of 33 hours a week. This included travelling to and attending council meetings and going functions.

Four out of 10 councillors work full-time at the job, while many of the others are self-employed or part-time workers.

The councillors will push their case in the coming weeks, especially those seeking election to the Senate. A total of 43 out of the 60 senators are elected by local councillors.

Several Senate candidates have backed their prospective voters' claims, but final decision rests with the Government.

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