A 47 per cent pay rise for city and county councillors will bring new blood into local politics and help members with families stay in local politics.
That’s according to Limerick Mayor Michael Sheahan (FG) who has welcomed the announcement that councillors salaries are to increase by €8,000 a year to €25,000.
Currently, councillors are paid a basic salary of just over €17,000, with unvouched expenses up to €2,667 and vouched expenses of €5,000.
Councillors who work in the public service are given paid time off to attend monthly meetings but those working in the private sector have to do so mostly on their own time.
“We need talented young people of every persuasion coming into politics but up to now, we have been losing good people because they just can’t go on juggling jobs, family and council,” Mayor Sheahan told the Limerick Post.
The Mayor referred to the “huge number of enthusiastic young people who joined us and then had to leave. People with families to support and bills to pay can’t take time out of their jobs even though the council is itself a full-time job.
“Many of them say they would very much like to work full-time at the council but they don’t have an option. Maybe this is the move that will allow them to do so and the carrot that will attract more young men and women into local politics.”
Mayor Sheahan said the increased salary decision is timely, given that Limerick could have a directly elected Mayor in the next two years.
“Limerick will be in a unique position then and we will be looking for more powers. It will be a bigger challenge. If the Minister doesn’t give the local authority more power and it’s seen as just a different version of the same thing, then he won’t be able to sell it to Cork or Galway.
“We still have a long way to go to sort out what the new Mayor’s powers and role will be and how the council will work with that but this is a unique opportunity for Limerick,” he said.
While elected members salaries are to go up, unvouched expenses for local politicians are to end and will be replaced with a verified costs system and audits in all councils.
Currently, only a limited number of councillors account for their expenses as it is not compulsory, as is the case with members of the Oireachtas.
However, city and county councillors will still get to keep a number of expenses including attendance fees for meetings of Special Policy Committees and other groups.
The rate of pay for councillors was highlighted by Fine Gael City Councillor Olivia O’Sullivan last month when she told the Limerick Post that the personal driver for Limerick’s directly elected Mayor would be paid more than local councillors.
Cllr O’Sullivan, who is self-employed and a mother of two young children, is a first-time councillor who won her seat in last May’s local elections.
Referring to the current salary level, she said: “It is very underpaid, it’s less than the minimum wage. Although it’s said to be a part-time role, that is not the public expectation. You do have to manage it along with another job because you don’t get paid enough for it to be full-time.”
“I’m only six months in it, but there is a big commitment on a weekly basis. I’m self-employed and I don’t know how you could do this job and be answerable to an employer on a daily basis, because the amount of meetings and commitments; just to fulfil the role is very difficult,” she added.
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