A Mullingar councillor is calling on all TDs and councillors to take a cut in both their salaries and expenses, to set an example to the constituents they represent.
Cllr Ruth Illingworth said that “cuts have to start at the top”, and called on all public representatives to reduce their income by one third.
“These are tough times, and the money is not available. I’m aware that over the past year steps have been taken to reduce the salaries of Oireachtas members, but it’s not enough. A lot of private sector workers have taken large pay cuts, and we hear of people having €100 to live on a month after bills. If we are asking others to take cut, it has to start at government level,” she said.
Cllr Illingworth already had a figure in mind for the cuts; she believes politicians’ pay and expenses should be reduced by one third.
“A cut of one third for Oireachtas members would bring them to the level of their British counterparts. Expenses have been dealt with to a certain extent, but there have to be more cuts. There was €6 million paid out in expenses in the first year of the present Dáil,” she added.
“Councillors in Britain are not paid, and receive expenses to cover the cost of their work. I’m suggesting county councillors’ pay be cut by one third, at least for the current situation. I don’t see the sense in allowances for chairing committees; these could be reduced, if not abolished.”
Cllr Illingworth also queried whether all the conferences attended by councillors were necessary, suggesting they could take place in “two- rather than four-star hotels”.
“Admittedly we don’t have a job for life and depend on those who elect us, who are our employers, but we need to lead by example,” she said.
“If these cuts are made, we can request other high-up workers in the public sector to take cuts. We can’t ask people to make sacrifices if we don’t ourselves.”
Responding to Cllr Illingworth’s suggestion, mayor Cllr Peter Burke said that town councils are “fighting for their lives” under the review of local government by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan.
“Town councillors are paid in the region of €4,000 and this is taxable,” he added.