Councillors resist plan to publish fund details

THE Lord Mayor of Cork is, despite objections, pressing ahead with plans to publish online details of how the city’s councillors spend a little-known €248,000 fund.

Two Fine Gael councillors raised concerns about publishing details of the “ward fund” when the issue was discussed at this week’s city council meeting.

Des Cahill and Patricia Gosch said that while they had no objection to the publication of who got money from their ward funds, they had concerns about the publication of the amounts each group got.

“It could create difficulty locally if one group down the road see what another group up the road is getting,” said Mr Cahill.

Cllr Sean Martin (FF) scoffed at their objections.

“That’s life, Des,” he said.

Lord Mayor Cllr Terry Shannon said there has to be transparency on how the €248,000 fund was distributed.

“It’s public money. It’s a lot of money and how it’s spent should be made public,” he said.

“There are organisations who could be getting quite a lot of money and it’s not accounted for in public.”

The council decided before Christmas to publish online the details of councillors’ representational payments, their expenses, and ward funds.

The first figures are due to be published on the council’s website early next month.

While details of councillors’ representational payments and conference expenses have been reported before, little is known about how they distribute their €8,000 ward fund.

Each councillor is entitled to spend the money as he or she sees fit, with certain conditions.

The maximum payment is capped at €500 per group per year, and the payments are audited by the council’s roads directorate.

One councillor denied the ward fund was used as a slush fund, or to buy votes.

“It gets things done in wards that the council mightn’t have money for,” the councillor said.

Most of the payments go to community and residents groups, sporting clubs and voluntary organisations.

The payments often help cover items like putting up “caution: kids at play” signs or the hire of skips for estate clean-up days.

Councillors are prevented by legislation from distributing ward funds in the three months before a local election.

Pay rates

Councillors’ payments:n€1,297 a month representational payment.

* €444 a month to cover administrative costs.

* €4,700 (guideline minimum amount) in annual conference expenses.

* €8,000 annual ward fund.

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