Council allowance is fair say councillors

The changes to allowances for councillors being elected in May is not over excessive say local political representatives.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan recently detailed the scheme which includes special responsibility and carers’ allowances as well as a basic allowance. It was finalised following recommendations made by an independent panel and stakeholder consultation.

A basic allowance for councillors will be set at £14,200 per annum.

Banbridge District Coucnil Chairman, UUP Councillor Olive Mercer said the allowance is a reflection of councillors’ dedication to the community.

Mrs Mercer commented: “Councillors will face significant changes as a result of the introduction of the new super councils which will include having to represent a larger electorate and undertaking training and greater responsibility for planning decisions.”

“Councillors have a commitment to serving their constituents, their responsibilities exist on a twenty four seven basis, the allowance is taxable and I believe is an acknowledgement of their dedication to and relevance in the community.”

Outgoing DUP Councillor, Mr Jim McElroy said he thinks the new allowance is “fair” and “not over excessive” considering the extra work involved.

SDLP Councillor Seamus Doyle said he was “happy enough” with the scheme as a “lot more work will be involved.”

UUP Councillor Mr Glenn Barr said councillors will be covering “double the area” and will have extra responsibilities and work loads.

However he added: “I wholeheartedly disagree in 11 new councils - there should be 15.”

Alliance Councillor Sheila McQuaid commented; “It is a very responsible job and believe me people wouldn’t be doing it for the money.”

Talking about the new scheme Mr Durkan said: “Under local government reform, councillors will face significant changes.

“To fairly compensate councillors for their increased roles and responsibilities, and the larger electorates they will represent, a councillors’ basic allowance will be set at £14,200 per annum.

“I am also doubling the value of caring allowances that can be claimed to encourage increased participation by those with caring responsibilities. Travel and subsistence allowances will stay the same and decisions on special responsibility allowance payments for positions of responsibility, such as Chairs and Mayors, will remain at the discretion of the councils.”