Chop members’ expenses before cutting services, says Noonan

Council members’ allowances and conference expenses should be at the top of the chopping block as Kilkenny County Council is forced to slash its spending for 2013 as its income continues to plummet, according to Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Greens).

Council members’ allowances and conference expenses should be at the top of the chopping block as Kilkenny County Council is forced to slash its spending for 2013 as its income continues to plummet, according to Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Greens).

He made the call in the wake of the council’s approval last month of cuts totalling €130,000 and the warning that deeper cuts will be needed for the council’s 2013 budget.

The council’s budget for this year includes €6,000 for the County Development Board chairperson’s allowance, €34,000 for the chairperson’s expenses, €9,000 for the vice chairperson’s expenses, a total of €32,000 for the strategic policy committee chairpeople and €85,000 for member education and training.

Based on information distributed to members at last month’s meeting, cuts are due to be considered of €1,000 from the CDB chairperson’s allowance, €7,000 from the chairperson’s expenses, €2,000 from the vice chairperson’s expenses, €6,000 from the SPC chairpeople and €17,000 from member education and training.

All of the council’s “nonessential” spending is facing the chop in 2013 and “many community and arts programmes could be ceased altogether,” Cllr Noonan noted. Doubts were also cast over the disabled persons grant, a matching fund grant used for essential retrofit programmes in the homes of people with disabilities.

He said that Environment Minister Phil Hogan “should now insist that any future property tax is collected and used by the local authorities rather than going direct to the Revenue” to ensure that councils can maintain as many services as possible. “This is in line with all other European local and regional government structures and would help empower local government.”

“In the meantime,” Cllr Noonan said, “allowances to cathaoirligh, mayors and the education and training allowances to members should be cut significantly to help fund some of the essential services that are facing cuts. Members cannot decry the cuts to services while entitlements remain untouched.”