Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Irish Independent article on Councillors Earnings is not the full story

Today’s Irish Independent carries a feature on the payments and expenses of county and city councillors. It is carried under the heading: REVEALED - The councillors earning up to €77,000 a year.
This has got the inevitable response at local level especially here in Co. Waterford where irate callers and texters to WLR (Waterford local radio) vented their spleen. No doubt this should push up newspaper sales for the Independent. Certainly there must be accountability for all public expenditure. In this respect the article serves a useful function. However this is not the full story.

I am no apologist for councillors. Undoubtedly some under perform but in general most are very hard working. They have no fixed hours.
The general public expects a good service twenty- four hours a day. People have become more and more demanding and impatient. Consequently many councillors work excessive hours. Much of the work is hidden and not evident to most voters. They are generally closer to the electorate than TDs. The first recourse for help is usually to the county or city councillor and not to the TD. Indeed it is not unusual for county councillors to displace sitting TDs in General Elections. This proves conclusively that these councillors have been effective at local level.

Expenses are not payment. They are incurred for necessary council work such as telephone use, transport et al. Surely we cannot expect councillors to be out of pocket. Mayors incur huge expenses. They must be reimbursed for these.

I think that it is most unfair to lump expenses and salary together. It gives the impression that local public representatives are grossly overpaid.
If we require representation at local authority level we must be prepared to pay for it.
In general in this time of recession it is incumbent on councillors to cut back on the number of conferences attended. These should be dropped from schedules unless absolutely necessary. Some worthwhile savings could be made here.
This caveat aside I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the overwhelming majority of local authority representatives.

No comments: