County councillors costing €520,000 in pay and expenses

Local Government reform sees costs fall and a cut in the number of conferences attended by politicians

County councillors costing €520,000 in pay and expenses
By Conor Ganly @laoisnews

The salary bill footed by the public for county councillors has fallen, but people are still paying more than €500,000 each year for local politicians.

Laois County Council's latest annual report reveals that €521,650 was spent in payments to Laois' 19 county councillors in 2015. This contrasts with more than €592,000 spent the previous year.

Last year was the first full year of slimmed down local government. There were 25 county councillors as well as town councillors up to the middle of 2014.

In 2015 the annual allowance for expenses was just over €86,100. This compares with €116,500 in 2013 - the last full year before the cutbacks. The total representational allowances exceeded €335,500 last year compared with more than €476,600 in 2013.

Mobile telephone costs have dropped below €1,000, but by about €40 to €968.

Payments for chairing the Strategic Policy Committees, which are held in secret, reach €24,000 annually. This has remained the same.

Perhaps the most dramatic change has been seen in the travel bill, especially for conferences held all around Ireland.

During 2013 nearly €94,000 was re-imbursed to councillors for attending 67 conferences and training events. In total 174 delegate trips were made to these meetings. In July 3013 11 Laois councillors went to the Magill Summer School in Donegal at a cost of nearly €10,700.

In 2015 the conference and training bill fell to just over €57,215. The expenditure was just €46,328. A total of 35 meetings were held involving 147 delegate trips.

The most costly conferance last year was in Gartan, Co Donegal. It cost €453.70 to send seven county councillors to the Colmcille Heritage Trust Winter school which discussed the future of local government.

Unlike the years before reform, many of the conferances attended related directly to county council work.

While most meetings are held away from Laois two meetings were held in Portlaoise.

One councillor charged €34.82 to attend the James Fintan Lalor conference in Portlaoise.

Six councillors charged, in total, €525 to attend an Association of Irish Local Government training day in Portlaoise.

Other notable payments included the extra fees to cover the cost of chairing meetings.

A total of €24,000 are paid to the chairpersons of the Strategic Policy Committee Chairs. These meetings are held in private.

Laois County Council's Cathaoirleach received €19,812 while the vice chair received €3,962.35.

County councillors who chaired the new municipal district shared €17,782.77 up €9,750 on 2015.