Local councillors may get pay increase and childcare assistance

Review under way into role and payments for elected members of local authorities

Minister for State for Local Government Reform John Paul Phelan has launched a review into the role and payments for councillors. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for State for Local Government Reform John Paul Phelan has launched a review into the role and payments for councillors. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A review of the role and payments for councillors to be completed early next year may recommend more money as well as access to secretarial and research supports, and assistance with childcare.

Also being considered are possible incentives for employers to allow staff take time off for meetings.

Councillors currently receive a package of payments which start with a basic “representational payment” of €16,891 per year.

Councillors also receive a new allowance worth €1,000 per annum, introduced last November and backdated to July 1st, 2017, in recognition of an additional workload following local Government reforms introduced in 2014.

Then there is an “optional vouched expenses allowance” worth up to a maximum of €5,000 per annum, which councillors may choose to opt for in place of an unvouched allowance worth approximately €2,500 per annum.

Minister for State for Local Government Reform John Paul Phelan said councillors also receive a composite annual expenses allowance designed to defray “reasonable expenses incurred by them in attending council meetings”.

Subsistence rates

The travel and subsistence elements of this allowance are based on the current civil service travel and subsistence rates.

“This ensures that payment may be made on a tax-free basis,” he said.

He said he was working on the possibility of linking councillors’ pay to a public sector pay grade, “so no one can come after us again” on pay for local authorities.

Mr Phelan told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government there were many demands on councillors’ time which showed “the public still greatly value a good councillor”.

“It is important to bear in mind that the annual expenses allowance is just that – an expense allowance. It is payable on the basis that it offsets costs incurred by the individual claiming it. The allowance is not, and should not be considered as, an income,” he said.

Mr Phelan has appointed Sara Moorhead SC to complete a review of the role of elected members of local authorities along with the remuneration and other supports provided to assist councillors in carrying out their duties. This would consider issues such as the need for childcare for councillors’ dependent children while the councillors attend meetings and secretarial and research support, Mr Phelan said.

He also said some consideration had to be given to employers who were not always keen on giving employees time off to concentrate on council business. But he said this was necessary to avoid a situation where membership of local authorities could be restricted to the retired, unemployed or the wealthy.