Councillors make court threat over pensions

COUNTY councillors are threatening court action to win pension rights for local authority representatives.

The Local Authority Members Association has also been urged to consider boycotting the Seanad elections, if long-standing claims for pension rights - comparable to those of TDs and senators - are not met.

County councillors pay PAYE and PRSI on their earnings as local representatives. But, unlike Oireachtas members, they have no pension rights, delegates gathered for LAMA’s annual congress heard.

Fine Gael’s Senator Paddy Burke said his party are in support of a total reform of local democracy, including the issue of remuneration for council members.

“As an employer, I have to have a pension plan for my employees. We should be taking the State to court on this issue... Many of us are full-time councillors. The Government has raised the bar about pensions right across the country. Yet, we have full-time councillors in our midst who have no other form of income.”

Cllr Alan Mitchell from Longford, a practising solicitor, suggested that the court route should be a last resort.

“But it is something which will have to be looked at. Hopefully we will have a sufficient case to put strongly enough to our Oireachtas members in the run-up to the election, rather than having to go through the courts.”

A councillor is not considered a State employee and gets representational payments rather than a salary, he said, and it is the department’s view that they perform a voluntary public service, rather than a job.

Environment Minister Dick Roche has ruled out a pension for councillors and insisted the issue was not on the Government’s agenda.

“I am having a review undertaken at present into certain aspects of the supports available to elected members,” he said.

“I have discussed the review during my meetings with the three local government associations and my department is engaged at official level in consultation with the associations.

“I have made clear at the very outset, the review does not cover the Representational Payment (RP) or the question of a pension scheme, although I am looking at all the other supports, which range from the expenses allowance to the retirement gratuity.”

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