Are you getting value for money?

by Padraig Conlon
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Local councillors earned just over €1 million in representational payments and expenses in 2018 according to recently released South Dublin County Council figures.

The councils annual S142 register of payments for last year reveals a total payment of €1,097,437.53 to our local councillors.

Each of the 40 councillors received €16,613.89 in representational payments, which is subject to tax, as well as an Area Committee Allowance of €996.58.

There are also allowances for councillors who chair County Council and Strategic Policy Committees.

Further allowances are paid for attending meetings, official functions, internet, phone as well as for training events and conferences.

Training (Travel and Subs and Fees) expenses in 2018 came to €57,193.62.

Training is provided to councillors by the Association of Local Government in Ireland and the Local Authority Members Association, while conference fees are paid directly to conference organisers and not to members.

In recent year many councillors have opted not to attend conferences and to allocate their allowances so that they can give funding to local community groups.

Dublin Gazette contacted the biggest spenders on Training expenses to enquire about the payment.

Of the Councillors with the largest output on Training that Dublin Gazette contacted, the following ones provided an explanation.

Conor McMahon Fine Gael €7,371.84 on Training expenses

“As a relatively new Councillor I have found the training I attended invaluable.

“Specific benefits include courses I attended relating to Local Property Tax and Climate change.

“I believe we as Councillors should be doing everything we can to better educate ourselves on these and many other local and legislative matters that constituents constantly seek advice on, on a regular basis.

“As you are aware, the courses attended are subject to approval by SDCC and which is appropriate.

“The training I personally attended also provided an opportunity to meet and network with other Councillors but particularly with Council management.

“It has allowed me to upskill in this varied and often challenging role and specifically guided me in helping constituents in a range of problems faced, which is key to my role in serving the local community.”

Brian Lawlor Fine Gael €8,078.58

“Minister Simon Coveney when Minister of Enviroment and local government announced that Cllrs could opt for status quo on Expenses on go completely vouched.

“A small number of councillors opted for vouched, I am one of them.

“I’m also SDCC Ailg representative which is the councillors union and put together brilliant training days.

“From GDPR, Planning, social media training and all housing queries types training, Hap Ras Rebuilding Ireland and policies for housing, which is of great benefit to me.”

Emer Higgins Fine Gael €5,270.69

“Over my 8 years on the Council I have claimed an average of less than €1,000 a year on training and development expenses.

“For a number of years, I didn’t have the capacity to attend any training or development opportunities as I was working full time for a multinational company while attending Council meetings and helping resolve constituent’s queries at evenings and weekends.

“I decided to prioritise my Council work over my career, and moved to a three day week at work.

“This allowed me to explore training and development courses for the first time and to catch up on training that I did not have the ability to attend in previous years.

“As a result, I am now a more effective public representative.

“For example, my attendance at Irish Planning Institute’s annual training greatly improved my An Bord Pleanala appeal of the Clonburris Strategic Development Zone, an area set between Lucan and Clondalkin.

“I appealed this plan for 8,500 homes on the basis of demanding infrastructure improvements in tandem with housing.

“Lack of infrastructure is a concern I share with many residents and thanks to my training I was better able to articulate those concerns, both in the Council Chamber and in my appeal.”

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