Councillors’ expenses cost taxpayer E192,000

The 25 elected members of Kildare County Council claimed more than E192,000 in allowances and expenses last year.

The 25 elected members of Kildare County Council claimed more than E192,000 in allowances and expenses last year.

The figures, obtained by the Leinster Leader this week, involve expenses for conferences, travel, accommodation, meals, mobile phones, as well as basic and special responsibility allowances.

This figure is drastically lower compared to previous years, for example in 2008 the then local representatives claimed in total E350,000 in expenses. This indicates, like the economic times, a very conscious curtailment of spending.

Payments received by councillors also includes a basic salary, called a representational payment, which is subject to PAYE in the normal way and PRSI as appropriate. Representational payments were €16,724 for 2010. Councillors also received an annual allowance for reasonable expenses incurred in attending meetings associated with their council business and miscellaneous costs such as postage bills as well as travel expenses, subsistence and a fixed annual amount. Councillors can also claim up to €600 in a mobile phone allowance annually. In addition to the annual allowance, councillors also receive ad hoc travel and subsistence payments for their attendance at conferences and other events.

To receive expenses, councillors must submit a claim in accordance with established rules and procedures. Councillors who are chairs of Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) also received a tax-free allowance of up to €6,000 per annum while representatives who sit on VECs, regional assemblies and regional authorities and other bodies may also receive payments.

In Kildare, the total amount of expenses claimed, excluding basic salary, for 1 January to 31 December 2010 was E192,242.49 figures released by the local authority this week revealed.

Topping total expenses was Cllr Micheal ‘Spike’ Nolan, who has been nominated for the Seanad, who claimed E13,521 for the year, followed by Cllr Kevin Byrne E13,235 and newly elected TD Catherine Murphy. These figures were boosted as all three councillors were chairpersons of strategic policy committees, whereby councillors received an allowance of E6,000 for the role.

“I am chair of the Strategic Policy Committee on Community and Culture and legislation was brought in to assist. With regards to conferences, there is a national limit of E4,800 per councillor per year and in Kildare County Council we undertook a limit of E2,800 so we as members of Kildare County Council have led the way with curbing our own expenses,” Cllr Nolan explained to the Leader. “I can’t speak for all members, it is foremost to my colleagues of economic downturn, we have cut our own allowances.”

Topping ordinary expenses was Cllr Mark Wall who claimed E7502.76 for the year. The average expense claimed by councillors was E5,633.62. One councillor did not claim any ordinary expenses, Cllr Padraig McEvoy, following a family tradition. His expenses were instead used on local projects nominated by the Clane councillor. “I am in full-time employment and I use my council salary to run the office. The council itself had to cut back its budget with a lot of financial constraints and my expenses were better used on youth services and heritage items.”

In terms of home conference expenses, a total of E16,850 was claimed by 14 councillors with Newbridge’s Cllr Spike Nolan claiming the highest E2076, followed closely by Cllr Fiona O’Loughlin at E2006.64.

In addition, a mobile phone allowance was introduced by Kildare County Council in 2008 and 24 of the 25 councillors claimed phone expenses totalling E4551.15 for the year. Cllr Francis Browne did not claim for this allowance, while Cllr Fiona O’Loughlin claimed the maximum, E600 for the year.

In terms of overseas conferences, councillors did not claim any expenses for such meetings, zero, a clear indication of the economic times.