A major row between the Government and county councillors is brewing over Green Party plans to reduce mileage rates for those driving emissions-heavy cars.
Councillors have blasted what they call a “D4” culture within the Green Party in government which is “out of touch” with rural Ireland.
The programme for government commits to “significantly decarbonise” as part of the move to reduce emissions and commits to “using a range of policy approaches to incentivise use of electric vehicles and encourage a shift away from petrol/diesel vehicles”.
However, the Irish Examiner has learned that, behind the scenes, the Green Party is seeking to encourage a transition to more carbon-neutral vehicles and among the plans is to reduce the mileage rate for those driving more polluting cars.
A major row with local authorities’ representatives is brewing as plans are being developed which will see the bands of mileage being amended based on the CC size of engine and emissions.
It is understood that the changes being considered could actually be rolled out for all civil and public servants, to whose rates councillors’ allowances are linked.
Representatives for the country’s councillors met with new Local Government Minister Peter Burke last week and, while the matter was not discussed formally, it was raised “on the margins”.
The plans have been met with a hostile response from councillors.
“There is too much of a ‘D4’ attitude going on here. Some of our members have to drive on roads with grass verges and not white lines and need robust vehicles,” said John Sheahan, a Fine Gael councillor for Limerick and a member of the Local Authorities Members Association.
“Where I come from, a bicycle or an electric car will be of no good to me in terms of getting to meetings,” he said.
Mr Sheahan accused the Greens of acting in a “knee jerk” manner and called on them to stop going down this track, as it would have a significant and negative impact on the ability of councillors to conduct their public duty.
“The last time the Greens were in power, they introduced tax breaks on diesel cars which didn’t exactly work out well,” he said.
At the meeting with Mr Burke, the findings of the Moorehead report were discussed. It recommends salary increases of up to €8,000 for councillors.
The report, revealed in the Irish Examiner, has not yet been implemented and Mr Sheahan said he and his members are viewing that as a discussion document rather than a “done deal”.
He said his members were encouraged by the minister’s contribution in which he stated that he wants this dealt with as soon as possible.
“He committed that he would try and come up with the best deal he can for councillors as he fully understood the role of the councillor particularly the role outside the chamber,” said Mr Sheahan.
Mr Burke said that any package has to get final Government approval.
In 2019, many first-term councillors decided to stand down rather than run again, citing the poor remuneration and terms and conditions for councillors.