Fine Gael Senators seeks €5,000 pay rise for councillors

Minister Leo Varadkar to consider allowing councillors rights to access social welfare benefits

Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney: a spokesman for the Minister said he was anxious to have the matter finalised. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney: a spokesman for the Minister said he was anxious to have the matter finalised. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael Senators are to table a motion at their parliamentary party meeting next week calling for a €5,000 increase in pay for councillors.

The 19 Senators have signed a memo calling on Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney to increase the annual fixed allowance for local authority members.

Currently councillors are paid €16,565 per annum. They have previously requested a €6,000 increase, citing a substantial increase in their workload.

A review of councillors’ pay is already under way in the Department of the Environment. A report on the topic was issued to former minister Alan Kelly and is now in the possession of Mr Coveney.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said he was anxious to have the matter finalised sooner rather than later.

The motion follows confirmation by Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar that he is to consider allowing councillors rights to access a number of social welfare benefits.

Many in political circles regard the review of councillors’ pay and benefits as an aspect of a Fine Gael leadership contest between Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney.

Replace Taoiseach

“Leo made the first move. We will have to force Simon to make the next move,” a party source said.

In response to Fine Gael Senator Paddy Burke, Mr Varadkar said local authority members were being treated unfairly and the position needed to be examined.

He said councillors pay 4 per cent PRSI but are not covered for jobseeker’s benefit or allowance, or illness benefit. They are also not entitled to a State pension when they retire as county councillors.

All public office holders have paid PRSI on their income since 2010 but do not receive the benefits other workers do.

More than 1,300 office holders are estimated to be affected, including almost 950 city, county and borough councillors.

Unacceptable

However, unlike councillors, they can access severance payments and pensions when they step down.

Labour Senator Denis Landy said the current position was unacceptable and must be addressed by the Minister as soon as possible.

He said the charge to councillors’ salaries came about as part of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and “all other public office holders have full pension entitlements except for the lowest-paid group; the councillors”.