Councillors abilities to go off on junkets or make claims for conferences they may not have attended will be limited under new regulations.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley recently finalised the Local Government Act 2001 (Section 142 ) Regulations 2010. The new regulations will limit the expenditure by local authorities on conferences, seminars, other meetings, or events. The new regime applies for 2010 and for each subsequent year.
Under the regulations, annual expenditure from 2010 by local authorities in the following classes is limited, as follows: City and county councils will be allocated €4,700 multiplied by the number of councillors in the local authority.
This means that in the case of the Galway County Council, the maximum amount which may be paid for 2010 and subsequent years is €4,700 multiplied by the number of councillors in that particular local authority, which is 30. For the Galway City Council the sum will be €4,700 multiplied by the 15 councillors.
Boroughs and certain large town councils that were formerly urban district councils will get €3,000 multiplied by the number of councillors; town councils which were formerly UDCs and certain larger former town commissions will get €2,000 times the number of councillors; while other town councils which were formerly town commissions will get €1,000 times the number of councillors.
The limits cover expenditure on attending domestic and foreign events and include costs associated with conference fees and travel/subsistence.
The limits are aimed at achieving better value for money and tackling spending in excess of €13,000 per councillor per year in some cases. They follow on a 25 per cent cut in travel and subsistence allowances applied to councillors last year.
“This is the first time any such limits have been set,” Minister Gormley said. “I have been concerned at both the level of expenditure on conference/seminars/events attended by councillors and the relevance of some of these.”
The Minister stressed that while the limits set out in the regulations are maximum amounts, they should not be seen as being a target or an amount deemed appropriate for a local authority in any given year.
“The regulations specifically leave it open to each local authority to provide a lesser amount. The Minister has encouraged them to do so, and quite a number already do. In addition, the Minister will keep the operation of the regulations under close review in this regard.”