Salaries and expenses for the members of Kilkenny County Council totalled €717,420 last year, according to figures obtained by the Kilkenny People.
The figure includes a €16,590.96 ‘representational payment’ (salary) made to each of the 26 councillors, as well as a range of expenses, which include travel, subsistence, and overnight accommodation for conferences around Ireland. In many cases, councillors earn the money on top of their own day jobs.
All councillors received an annual allowance based on how far they live, and have to travel to and from, county council and SPC meetings. In Kilkenny’s case, this ranged from €4,390.80 to just over €5,900 depending on the councillor.
As well as the salary, annual allowances and conference allowances, the documents show that several councillors received additional payments for being the chair or vice-chair of a number of different committees, as well as the council cathaoirleach position. These payments ranged from €1,500 to over €17,000 depending on the position.
The two cathaoirligh of the county council topped the list. Marie Fitzpatrick (Lab) received €17,070.05 on top of her representational payment for her role as last year’s cathaoirleach, taking her total amount for the year to €46,380.63. Current cathaoirleach Pat Dunphy (FG) got €15,806.25, taking his total to over €40,000.
All bar one of the committee chairperson positions are held by Fine Gael or Labour councillors. Maurice Shortall (Lab), John Brennan (FG) and Matt Doran (FF) each received a €6,000 committee chair top-up, while Martin Brett (FG) received €4,500 and Tom Maher (FG) got €1,500. Cllr John Brennan also received a CDB allowance of €5,979.48.
Excluding the chairpersons’ allowances, SPC chairs, and standard representational payments, four of the six highest allowances claimants were Fianna Fail party councillors – Cora Long, Eamonn Aylward, Matt Doran, and Andrew McGuinness.
Allowances associated with conferences account for a substantial amount of the money claimed. In the case of weekend conferences, accomodation, travel and subsistence costs make up the bulk of the bill.
Conference fees generally range from €100 to €200, depending on the event. But a two-day conference in somewhere like Cork, Kerry, Galway or Carlingford could potentially involve three overnight stays.
The civil service mileage rate of €0.95 allows for favourable fuel expenditure in the case of long journeys. For example, the 260-mile round trip from Kilkenny to Rosscarbery, Cork, is estimated by the AA Route Planner to cost just over €62 for fuel.
But based on the councillors’ mileage rate, the bill for fuel expenses would be closer to €248 per trip. That trip (Kilkenny to Rosscarbery) was made 16 times by councillors last year.
The documents show that three councillors did not claim any expenses for conferences in 2013: David Fitzgerald, Patrick Crowley, and Paul Cuddihy. The three are all Fine Gael members, and neither Cllr Fitzgerald nor Cllr Cuddihy claimed conference expenses in 2012 either.