Councillors working fulltime for part time pay - Hill

Councillors working fulltimefor part time pay - Hill

The workload for county councillors has increased significantly in recent years to almost a full time job while they are still paid at a part time rate, according to Cathaorileach Cllr Paddy Hill.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner in the same week that Senator Victor Boyhan from Dublin called for councillors’ annual pay of €17,000 (excluding allowances and expenses) to be increased to between €25,000 and €30,000, Cllr Hill said that the workload for local representatives has increased beyond recognition since he was first elected to the council in 1974.

“The workload has definitely increased there isn’t any question about that. A lot of councillors have fulltime jobs and you would need that to support a family, but they would also be working a lot of extra hours with council work.”

The technological advances of recent decades is one of the main reasons why the demands placed on councillors is greater than ever before, Cllr Hill believes.

“Now everyone is on their phones and on emails. For fellas like myself and other people who are semi-retired it is nearly a full time job engaging in council activity.

“If someone rings you about something, you might know the answer but you have to make an inquiry just to make sure. It can take up a lot of time and the same applies to all councillors.

“You are contactable 24/7 and there weren’t the same issues [in the past]. The government are saying things are going well but there are huge issues like housing and people looking for the medical card.

“Councillors are in the front line in many ways and I don’t have a problem with that. You are delighted to help people but I see younger politicians who are holding down fulltime jobs as well and it must be a big strain.”

Senior counsel Sara Moorehead was appointed by the government to conduct an independent review of the role of councillors, including their pay and conditions. The report was due in April.

In a statement issued last week, Senator Victor Boyhan said the current pay levels are “simply not sufficient or fair pay for the work and commitment that councillors give to the job”.

“In Ms Moorhead’s interim report she stated that the issue of pay and allowances is ‘extremely complex’ and that a ‘considerable amount of work remains to be undertaken’ including an online survey of councillors to determine their current workload.

“Despite many political promises on councillors’ pay, over many years, no concrete offer has been forthcoming, and that is simply unfair and needs to be addressed. I believe that councillors should be receiving a figure between €25,000 - €30,000 per year payment for their work.”

While acknowledging that “none of us would refuse extra money,” Cllr Hill wryly noted that most senators, including the Dublin representatives, are elected by county councillors.

“This is ongong since the last election. Since councillors vote to elect a lot of the senators, we were promised a lot of extra money but it never materialised. There is the review by the Senior Counsel Sarah Moorhead but she hasn’t presented her findings yet. Personally I don’t see a lot coming of it,” he said.

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