Extra payment proposal rejected by DoE

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Prior to yesterday’s offical announcement by Environment Minister Mark Durkan on pay scales for councillors after the start of the newly amalgamated local authorities in 2015, the Department of the Environment commissioned a report taking into account the opinion’s of ratepayers across Northern Ireland.

This consultation was used to respond to the recommendations of the NI Councillors Remuneration Panel. That document has been obtained by the Journal.

One proposal made by the councillors panel was that representatives should receive £200 per day for a maximum of three days per year , with four days for committee chairs, cabinet members or mayors “in order to encourage participation....this in addition to the actual cost of the training which should be covered by council’s training budget.”

However, the request was flatly rejected by the DoE. who in response to the request said: “The Department recommends that payment should notbe paid for attendance at training courses. Attendance at training is in an intergral part of a coucillor’s duties and should not be seen as an add-on that attracts extra payments.”

Also in response to that particular proposal the DoE said: “To receive an additional £200 per day training session. up to a maximum of three training days per year (or four in some cases), would appear to be excessive and place an unecessary burden on ratepayers. Historically it has been the case that expenses for training are reimbursed but no allowance has been paid for attendance.”

The report also reveals that councillors allowance for office support equipment was added as part of the overall basic allowance, bringing it into line with Stormont-that is , a level of £1,000 per year.

The recommendation from the councillors panel says: “Each counvillor should get either £1,000 per annum plus a mobile telephone, with all NI calls paid, or actual as as agreed by that council.”

In response the DoE said: “Councils currently provide various levels of office support to their councillors. There is no specific legislative provision for support services. As well as recognition of time and commitment of all councillors, this basic allowance is also intended to cover incidental costs by councillors in their official capacity, such as the use of their homes and the cost bof any phone calls, including mobile calls. In the NI Assembly, up to £1,000 is allowed for office consumables. The department recommends that this amount is included as in the overall basic allowannce.”