Councils face conference-expenses cap

Councils face conference-expenses cap

Councils faced a cap on conference expenses for the first time tonight under a new spending crackdown.

The regulations, signed off just a day after a major overhaul of Oireachtas allowances was announced, aim to curb annual claims of more than €13,000 per councillor from some local authorities.

Yearly payouts to county and city councils for seminar fees and travel to events will now be limited to €4,700 per councillor.

Environment Minister John Gormley said the rules would help prevent excessive and unnecessary spending.

“I have been concerned at both the level of expenditure on conference/seminars/events attended by councillors and the relevance of some of these,” he added.

But Mr Gormley stressed the new limits, which follow last year’s 25% cut in councillors’ travel and subsistence allowances, were maximum amounts which should not be deemed as a target.

Boroughs such as Kilkenny and larger town councils will be able to spend up to €3,000 per councillor on conferences and meetings.

Former urban district councils and larger former town commissioners like Portlaoise, Co Laois will be limited to €2,000, with smaller town councils, including Balbriggan in North Co Dublin, allowed to pay out just €1,000 per councillor.

In addition to the new limits, guidelines have also been issued by the Department of Environment on a training programme for councillors.

“Together the regulations and the guidelines will achieve the twin objectives of limiting expenditure, while at the same time ensuring a targeted and comprehensive approach to meeting the training and development needs of councillors,” Mr Gormley added.

Meanwhile, transport and accommodation payments to TDs and senators will be subject to a new expenses system based on their attendance record at Leinster House and distance travelled to the Dáil.

Deputies and senators will get an allowance to cover certain costs including travel, with payments published monthly in a drive to make the system more transparent.

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