City officials receive €75k in travel and conference expenses

Cork’s city councillors clocked up more than €75,000 in conference, seminar, and travel expenses in the past year.

City officials receive €75k in travel and conference expenses

The bulk of the €75,562.63 total was made up of subsistence, mileage, and hotel costs racked up by 17 of the total 31 elected members, amounting to just over €52,000.

Training conference seminars, aimed at providing councillors with skills and information relevant to their position, amounted to €20,599, split between 18 members.

Three councillors took flights, with this cost amounting to just under €1,700.

The table of costs was provided by city council management following a request by Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, one of a “growing number” of council members who refrain from claim expenses for attending conferences.

“It’s frustrating because there are issues in the city that directly affect residents, such as repair works and potholes, yet you have councillors travelling to far-off counties, clocking up mileage to attend conferences over one- or two-night periods,” said Mr O’Leary.

“I’m not against anyone upskilling themselves, but at a time when people are losing their jobs, amid consistent pay cuts, all we ask is that we prioritise the use of moneys in the most strategic way possible, such as housing issues.”

Council records show Labour councillor Denis O’Flynn travelled to Letterkenny in Donegal from Jan 18 to 20. The following week, he attended a conference in Westport Mayo, where he stayed overnight.

Mr O’Flynn claimed €4,835.51 in subsistence, mileage and hotel costs from Jan 2012 to Feb 2013 — the highest of members’ claims.

Over the same period, he clocked up €1,690 in conference seminar and training fees.

Mr O’Flynn was unavailable for comment yesterday but his party colleague, Michael O’Connell, said the expenses system for members is transparent.

“There’s an allocation for each councillor to use for conferences and training, its all online,” he said. “We attend different conferences all over the country on topics like tourism or legal issues and they are a benefit to us as they provide ongoing training. When you take the cost of petrol and hotels out of it, you are barely covering yourself. We don’t get paid for our time.”

The city council’s elected members expenses page outlines an annual allowance of €5,339.04 available to members annually.

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