Limerick mayor’s driver to earn more than councillors – claim

Office of directly elected mayor set to cost €313,916 with chauffeur earning €34,580

Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan:  the new role represents “a chance for Limerick to lead the way in local government reform”. Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan: the new role represents “a chance for Limerick to lead the way in local government reform”. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The proposed salary of a personal driver for Limerick’s directly elected mayor will be more than what councillors earn annually, a Fine Gael representative has complained.

Limerick was the only one of three cities to vote in favour of a directly elected mayor in a referendum in May, when Cork and Waterford rejected the proposal. A mayoral election is expected to take place in 2021.

The advisory group on the establishment of the new role held a meeting with councillors for the first time at Limerick City Hall on Monday, after which Fine Gael councillor Olivia O’Sullivan also complained that councillors were “underpaid” and “overstretched”.

The office of the directly elected mayor is expected to cost an estimated €313,916, including the mayor’s salary of about €129,854 plus expenses of €16,000. An adviser and programme officer will both earn €66,741, while a personal driver will earn €34,580.

The new mayor will draft the council’s annual budget, which is currently the responsibility of the local authority’s chief executive.

Leading the way

Limerick’s current mayor, Michael Sheahan, also of Fine Gael and elected to the role by his fellow councillors, reminded the Government that “funding must be forthcoming from central government” for the new office.

Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan told councillors the new role represented “a chance for Limerick to lead the way in local government reform”.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms O’Sullivan said she “can understand” the cost of the new mayor’s proposed annual salary, because Government “want to get serious people” for a “serious role”.

However, when asked if a personal driver costing nearly €35,000 was essential to the role, she replied that while she was “not going to make any presumptions” about any supporting roles to the mayor, “certainly the driver will be paid much better than councillors, but let’s hope that will be addressed”.

‘Overstretched role’

“The salary for a councillor is €17,100, and obviously there are expenses – it’s less than the minimum wage.

“It’s a very overstretched role, and in my eyes it is underpaid. I’m new to it, I’m only six months in it, but, I’ll tell you, the commitment on a weekly basis. I’m self-employed and I don’t know how you could do this job and be answerable to an employer on a daily basis, because the amount of meetings and commitments; just to fulfil the role is very difficult.

“It is very underpaid, it’s less than the minimum wage. To say it’s a part-time role, the expectation of people is certainly that it is not part-time. You do have to manage it along with another job because you don’t get paid enough for it to be full-time.

“In my case, I have got a young family and that’s my choice to go into it, but I certainly couldn’t be in a full-time [job] answerable to an employer and do this, not to mind going home to a family and the commitments there. So, it is, I would say, definitely very over-stretched and underpaid.”