My speech addressing Minister Simon Coveney on the amendments to Councillor’s conditions

Statements on Amendments the Councillors Conditions

(Minister Simon Coveney)

For members of Seanad and Dail Eireann, there can sometimes be a tendency to underestimate the sheer dedication and immense workload of Councillors – the reality of Councillor’s day to day lives, however, is that they are on full time public duty – available to all citizens in their remit, day and night!

Since the reform in local government structures in 2014 – whilst there has been some positive results -there is no disputing the significantly increased workloads on elected members arising from new structures and legislative obligations. I will elaborate on these later.

For now, I believe the most pressing issue is one of equality for all councillors and it is one which must be addressed as a matter of priority!

City Councillors from the four Dublin authorities, Galway and Cork- a total 232 – like their County counterparts they are doing an tireless job – yet are excluded from the Municipal District Members allowance of €1000. Inequality, in my view, especially when it comes to positive change is not acceptable.

Another glaring inequality is that councillors are the only grouping where a medical cert is not taking into consideration in terms of remuneration deduction.

Moreover, there is no regard made for Councillors who cannot attend meetings due to bereavement, paternity or maternity leave. Councillors’ allowances are being deducted if they’re attendance fall under 80% – even it if for any of the above genuine and extenuating circumstances.

Regarding the substantial increase in the volume of workload for Councillors- this has been exacerbated by the reduction in the number of council seats from 1,627 to 949 (40%) at a time when the population has been increasing. A diminished number of councillors are now charged with delivering representational services to a considerably larger number of citizens.

Many councillors are faced with much larger electoral areas with councillors in areas such as West Mayo, West Clare, and South-West Kerry having to service areas more than 100km from end to end.

Councillors in City areas, who I referred to earlier, are servicing areas with a growing population. As a result, some city electoral areas are nearly twice the national standard of one elected member for every 4,830 population.

This, coupled with the additional powers and responsibilities devolved to local authorities – under the 2014 reforms in areas such as local economic development and local community development – has led to a considerable increase in workload for all elected members, county & city.

AILG’s Members Survey July 2015

In July 2015, the AILG undertook an extensive and detailed survey of the 949 Elected Members across all Local Authorities in order to access and evaluate the considerable increase in workload that all local elected members now undertake since these new local government structures were introduced.

The Association received a 59% response rate – a total of 561.

The findings included:

  • 74% of elected members are spending 10+ hours per week attending Local Authority Meetings (including all various Local Authority Committee Meetings/Workshops.
  • Average number of local authority meetings/workshops attended on a weekly basis is 3.03.
  • 68% of Elected Members are spending a further 10+ hours per week attending Community Meetings/Events.
  • 53% of Elected Members are spending 10+ hours week spent travelling in order to fulfil their duties as a local Councillor including travel and time on general constituency work. This is representative of the increased geographical areas of new Municipal Districts/Electoral Areas.
  • 40% of Elected Members now classify themselves as Full Time Public Representatives.
  • Average (mean) time of 33.15 hours per week fulfilling their role as a local public representative.

I fully support the AILG’s campaign for enhanced terms, conditions & supports for their members under the following headings;

  • Increase and align the Elected Members Representational Payment to the Local Authority Salary Scale, set at Point 1 on the scale with a rate of €23,188 per annum, (from its current rate of €16,565 per annum), which is a reasonable request given the almost full time nature of local authority service.
  • Increase in the fixed annual allowance to Councillors to facilitate the setting up of home office facility and to cover the increased costs of secretarial support, IT facilities, equipment and advertising/promotion.

The Minister however, must be commended for the positive changes already made such as the reclassification of the members PRSI to Class S which commenced in January 2017.

However, I believe the longer-term objective is to seek an increase and realignment in Councillors representational payment in order to bring the representational payment to a realistic level as the workload of the elected member is a major commitment which has now surpassed being a part time role and should be remunerated appropriately.

 

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