Pay-rises for councillors should be back-dated to this year’s local elections, a Fine Gael minister has told TDs and Senators.
Junior housing minister John Paul Phelan also said it’s his view that councillors should be paid “substantially more” than their current salary of around €17,000.
But he disagreed with suggestions at an Oireachtas committee that if should be 50pc of Senators’ pay of almost €70,000.
A report on pay for county and city councillors is being prepared by barrister Sara Moorhead.
It is expected to recommend a possible pay increase of €8,000 at a cost of €7.5m per year to the State, according to a report by RTÉ.
Mr Phelan said he expects the report to be finalised in the next 10 days but that he hasn’t received the finished document and isn’t in a position to comment on figures until its published.
TDs and Senators on the housing committee challenged Mr Phelan on whether he would commit to pay increases for councillors.
He said that he, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, public expenditure minister Paschal Donohoe “agree councillors shouldn’t be the worst paid people in the room when it comes to local authority staff.”
He said that is the current position.
Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly asked if pay rises would be back-dated to the local elections in May.
Mr Phelan said: “I haven’t diverted from my view that it should be dated from the last local election… elections are natural boundaries politically.”
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract a broad spectrum of people into local politics and one of the reason is the “very limited remuneration”.
He also asked if it was correct that pay rises for councillors may be part of wider public sector pay talks next year.
Mr Phelan agreed that; “One of the reasons that it is difficult to attract people is certainly low-pay”.
He said it is a “strong possibility” that councillors’ salaries will be part of the public pay talks but that decision has not been made yet.
He said the aim is to link councillors’ remuneration it to public sector pay “so it’s not politicians in future which are deciding pay of other politicians.”
Mr Phelan added that this “just shouldn’t happen.”
Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said there needs to be clear timelines for councillors’ pay rises.
He argued that the work-load of some councillors has “quadrupled” after the abolition of town councils and re-drawing of boundaries.
Mr Conway said it’s not popular to increase the pay of politicians but added: “most fair-minded people think councillors certainly aren’t earning a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Mr Phelan said he shares this view and said he’s determined it will be addressed.
He added: “I acknowledge councillors are under-paid at the moment for the work that they do and amount of time that has to go into the job.”