Garda allowances add €215m to force's pay bill


ANALYSIS:ALLOWANCES PAID to members of An Garda Síochána in 2008 totalled €215 million, according to a list of 46 expenses types and their costs supplied by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, writes COLM KEENA

The issue of cutting allowances and pay is the subject of continuing talks between trade union groups, the Department of Finance and members of so-called “frontline” groups, such as the Garda, who marched yesterday in Dublin to highlight their opposition to cuts in their pay and allowances.

Many of the allowances available to members of the Garda are used when calculating a retiring garda’s pension entitlements, while others are not eligible for tax. Retiring gardaí can choose three consecutive years out of their final 10 years of service for the purposes of the calculation of their pension entitlements.

The McCarthy report suggested the “liberal system of allowances on top of basic salary and a high overtime bill is not in the public interest and should be revised with the aim of securing efficiencies in the delivery of policing services”. It said a review of Garda pay and other income could achieve savings of €50 million “as a minimum”.

The overall Garda pay bill is about €940 million a year, of which €643 million is regular pay, €215 million allowances, and €80 million overtime. Many if not most of the allowances are considered by members of the force to be part of their salary. A garda of 10 years’ service earns €43,262 in basic salary. The Garda Commissioner earns €240,454 basic.

The most expensive single category is the so-called “rent allowance”, understood to be a historical payment. It cost the exchequer €58.9 million in 2008, with each garda up to and including the chief superintendent receiving the €4,374 a year payment. It is pensionable, meaning it is included in the income calculations that dictate the size of a member’s pension.

Another costly allowance is the night duty allowance, where members who work between 6pm and 8am are paid at an hourly rate equal to two and one sixth times the normal hourly rate. The cost of this to the exchequer last year was €47.17 million, and it is also pensionable.

A Sunday allowance equal to one fifth of basic weekly pay is paid to members who work on Sundays, and cost the exchequer €47.45 million last year. A Saturday allowance cost the exchequer €4.98 million. Both are pensionable. A public holiday allowance equal to the Sunday allowance cost €13.8 million last year, and is pensionable.

An allowance called a premium payment is paid to members who are on leave and would ordinarily be able to claim unsocial hours allowances. It cost €9 million last year and is pensionable.

Detectives receive €30.90 per week to cover out-of-pocket expenses. The payment is not taxable and does not contribute to pensionable pay. It cost the exchequer €2.97 million last year.

There are a number of such non-taxable, non-pensionable allowances. They include a €2.77 per week payment to members who use bicycles in the course of duty; a €30.90 per week payment to juvenile liaison officers for out-of-pocket expenses; and uniform and plain clothes allowances. The uniform allowance for gardaí and sergeants is €4.39 per week, while that for officers and inspectors ranges from €704 to €888 a year.

All members are paid a €2.93 per week “boot allowance” towards the maintenance of their footwear. The department pointed out that footwear is provided to Garda members.

Superintendents and chief superintendents are paid €8,764 and €11,017 respectively for being available outside normal office hours.

Officers engaged in full-time policing administration are paid €5,203 per year to compensate for the loss of other allowances, particularly unsocial working hour allowances.

Members who handle and maintain dogs are paid a €58.14 per week allowance. Members who work in the Gaeltacht and have adequate Irish to work through that language are paid an additional 7.5 per cent of salary.

Crime scene examiners are paid €3,206 per year for their particular skills and “to compensate for loss of unsocial hours allowances as scenes have to be examined in daylight hours”, according to the department.

Members of the ministerial driving pool are paid an additional 40 per cent of salary, and no overtime charges arise as a result. The allowance is pensionable and cost the exchequer €1.62 million last year.

Members wholly employed as drivers in the fleet management division, who drive official cars, who are drivers for detective units, and who are wholly deployed on motorcycle duty, are paid an allowance of €552 per week.

Colm Keena is Public Affairs Correspondent

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