There’s no such thing as virtual mileage’: TDs’ anger at councillors receiving travel expenses
Irish Independent this week revealed councillors on some local authorities are being paid to attend online meetings
Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien said issue of councillors being paid travel expenses to attend online meetings ‘is a matter for councils’. Photo: Brian Lawless/ PA Wire
December 30 2020 02:30 AM
Some Government ministers are angry over mileage payments to county councillors for attending meetings from home through virtual conference calls.
However senior politicians have been reluctant to publicly criticise councillors.
“There is no such thing as virtual mileage,” a source close to the Taoiseach said last night.
It comes after the Irish Independent this week revealed councillors from across all parties on some councils are receiving expenses as normal, despite the Covid-19 restrictions.
Housing and Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien, who received a written complaint by one councillor about the mileage payments said: “It’s actually a matter for the local councils themselves.”
“I’m aware that the allowances that are paid are done on a monthly basis. They’re composite. And this is done on a short period of time.”
A source close to the Taoiseach suggested the public would “find it hard to understand.”
“There is either mileage or there is not. And there is none if you attend a meeting by Zoom. There is no such thing as virtual mileage,” the source said.
Expenses continue to be paid at the same rates as normal, despite many meetings moving online. The monthly allowance paid to councillors is made up of subsistence, a fixed amount and mileage based on the distance from home to their local authority offices.
Some councillors have waived the payments, including Fingal Council Independent Jimmy Guerin who said: “You can’t justify paying mileage to go from the kitchen to the study for a virtual meeting.”
Minister Mr O’Brien said: “It’s up to each council to look at how they remunerate their councillors.
“It’s quite a meagre remuneration if I might say. It’s about €17,000 a year.
“It’s then up to each council to ensure that they work within the scheme that is set forth by the department.”
He said while meetings are held virtually, he knew of councillors who are ‘attending’ on a virtual basis the meetings from their own county offices because they don’t have the facilities to do so at home.
“So they are travelling to county hall or city hall,” he said.
The Irish Independent also previously revealed almost all senators were still being paid mileage during the March and April, even though some had authorised advance surrender of the monies.
The Houses of the Oireachtas said at the time expenses were parcelled out monthly on a predicted annual basis, and there would have to be a reconciliation by members at the end of the year – now just 24 hours away.
An Oireachtas source said: “Members can waive any portion of their salary.
“However this is a confidential matter between the TD and Revenue.
“We facilitate this but under Section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act, this information is given in confidence.”