Over €31m paid to councillors in 2009

 

COUNTY AND city councils spent more than €31 million in payments to councillors last year.

Cork County Council had the highest spend among the 33 local authorities that provided figures to The Irish Times. In total the local authority spent €2.16 million in payments to the 48-seat council over the course of 2009.

Dublin city had the second-highest payout to councillors, coming in at €1.62 million. The city is served by 53 council seats.

In 2009 eight local authorities spent more than €1 million on councillors’ payments alone.

The other six councils that made payments topping €1 million were: Clare which spent €1.27 million; Mayo which paid out €1.24 million; Meath €1.13 million; Cork City Council €1.09 million; Kerry €1.09 million and South Tipperary €1.04 million.

Galway City Council, which has just 15 seats, spent the least amount on its councillors, who cost the local authority just under €482,000.

Payments received by county and city councillors include a basic salary, called a representational payment, which is subject to PAYE in the normal way and PRSI as appropriate.

Representational payments stood at €17,604 last year. However this payment has since been reduced to €16,724 for 2010.

Councillors also receive an annual allowance for reasonable expenses incurred in attending meetings associated with their council business and miscellaneous costs such as postage bills as well as travel expenses, subsistence and a fixed annual amount.

Councillors can also claim up to €600 in a mobile phone allowance annually.

In addition to the annual allowance, councillors also receive ad hoc travel and subsistence payments for their attendance at conferences and other events.

To receive expenses, councillors must submit a claim in accordance with established rules and procedures. Councillors who are chairs of Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) receive a tax-free allowance of up to €6,000 per annum while representatives who sit on VECs, regional assemblies and regional authorities and other bodies may also receive payments.

Many of the country’s highestpaid councillors also acted as mayor, chair or cathaoirleach in their local authority area in 2009. Seven councils paid €50,000 or more in mayoral allowances last year.

The highest mayoral payment was in Cork City Council, which paid a total of more than €90,000 to the two lord mayors who served in that time period – current Lord Mayor Dara Murphy and his predecessor Brian Bermingham.

The second-highest mayoral payment, at just under €70,000, was spent on the two lord mayors of Dublin over the course of 2009. But despite this none of the capital’s councillors, including Emer Costello and Eibhlinn Byrne – both of whom acted as lord mayor of the local authority in 2009 – were among the 15 highest-paid councillors in the country.

There are enormous variations in the amounts that the different mayors, chairs and cathaoirleachs receive.

The amount paid to the chair of Cavan, the lowest paid of these positions at €22,069, is less than a fourth of the allowance for the lord mayor of Cork City, which stands at €90,348.

The total figure for each council is inclusive of gratuity payments where provided.

These payments were received by former councillors who were not re-elected in the local elections in June last year.

Their gratuity payment is calculated at one-fifth of each councillor’s representational payment, their basic salary, for each year they served on their local authority.

The total paid out by the 33 councils in gratuity payments in 2009 stood at €4.76 million.