Councillors to seek salaries and pensions

 

County councillors, urban councillors and town commissioners are to join forces to seek an annual salary and pension from the Government.

Salaries in the region of £6,000 are being sought by county councillors with smaller payments for urban councillors and town commissioners.

County councillors are also seeking a contributory pension which would be worth up to £3,000 a year for those with 20 years service.

The GCCC, the General Council of County Councils is seeking a meeting with LAMA, the Local Authority Members Association and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland to agree a common approach to the negotiations which are expected to commence later this year.

The Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, has expressed support for paying councillors a salary. A Department spokesman confirmed yesterday that the Local Government Bill, 1999, which will be published in the coming weeks, will include an enabling provision for the payment of local authority members.

The Bill will not specify the size of the salaries. These will be introduced in the form of regulations at a later stage.

The figure of £5,000 to £6,000 had been mentioned by the GCCC at an early stage of discussions. The GCCC director, Mr Liam Kenny, said his members were reluctant to specify how much they would be seeking as they did not want to get into a bargaining position.

"The figures mentioned have been less than the telephone expense allowance granted to some TDs and many of our members believe their workload is on a par with that of TDs," Mr Kenny said.

LAMA's chairman, Senator Jim Walsh, said his association would be seeking a salary equivalent to one-fifth of that paid to senators. "We have mooted a figure of not less than £6,000," he said.

In addition, LAMA is seeking the creation of a contributory pension scheme which would pay members a pension equivalent to one-fortieth of their salary for each year of service, up to a maximum of 20 years.

Mr Kenny said his members were mindful of the public pay demands being faced by the government and they did not want to add to them, but they were also anxious that a proper reimbursement scheme be put in place for new councillors who were facing into new five-year terms of office.

"We have put together some solid background information on councillors' workloads," he said. As part of their research, members were encouraged to keep diaries. These showed that their council work took an average of 34 hours a week.

"This is on top of whatever normal job they did," Mr Kenny said. "This work does not take the form of a few hours each evening. Councillors can be ambushed coming out of Mass on a Sunday morning or as they are taking their children to McDonald's on a Saturday afternoon."

While the GCCC recognised that this was part of what public life was about, there was also a recognition that being a councillor was no longer a part-time job.