LAMA Submission to Joint Oireachtas Comm Env, Cult & Gaeltacht

Local Government Bill 2013
Submission to Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht Thursday 7th November 2013

While LAMA, along with the other representative organisations, contributes to matters of policy in Local Government its primary role is to work to create the working conditions and to put the education and training opportunities in place so that Councillors can carry out their role as local public representatives in an efficient and effective way and receive due recognition for this.

In this regard LAMA makes the following points to the Joint Committee
1. Funding of LAMA post 2014 – ref 11.6.5 page 149 of Putting People First makes reference to the funding of LAMA. At present LAMA receives €4,500 pa from each of the 38 Councils affiliated to it with the remainder of its income coming from its members and from the surplus of the Seminars it runs. After the 2014 Local Elections the number of Councils will be reduced to 31 which will mean a reduction in income. LAMA needs the present level of funding from Local Authorities to continue in order for it to operate effectively.
2. For many years LAMA has run two Seminars each year, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn. Considerable work goes into designing those Seminars so that they are relevant to the education and training needs at that time and speakers of repute and integrity are engaged to make presentations and take part in debate and question/answer sessions. We feel strongly that LAMA should be listed as an approved body for running courses/seminars to meet the specific needs of Councillors – ref 11.6.12 page 151 of Putting People First.
3. Involvement/role of Councillors in Local Enterprise Offices and Local Development Companies should be strengthened, Councillors being the representatives of the people at local level.
4. County/City Councils should be the primary unit with other existing developmental organisations being part of it.
5. Powers/Functions of Municipal District Councils should be maximised in a sensible way and avoiding duplication.
6. New electoral areas – these are geographically bigger than at present with an overall reduced number of Councillors – 114 Councils (1,627 Councillors) being reduced to 31 Councils (949 Councillors). This will lead to greater travel for Councillors within their Electoral Area for which they should be compensated in the standard monthly allowance.
7. There will be less Councillors in all counties except those in the Dublin area. This will create a greater workload for Councillors which will increase further with the reduction in the number of TDs.
8. Representational Payment – At present County and City Councillors are paid what is called a Representational Payment of €16,565 pa which is 25% of a Senators salary and is subject to PAYE, Universal Social Charge, Pension levy and PRSI for which there are no Social Welfare entitlements. Item 11.6.15 page 152 of PPF states that this payment will be reviewed. This review should take account of a number of factors including the increased workload which Councillors will have under the reformed Local Government structure, the larger geographical areas to be covered by Councillors in the revised Electoral Areas and the greater responsibilities Councillors will have as members of both County/City Councils and District Councils.
9. Social Welfare entitlements for Councillors – as mentioned above Councillors have PRSI deducted from their Representational Payment but do not qualify for any Social Welfare entitlements. Councillors are positioned in class K of the Social Welfare code at present. We believe that the reasoning for this should be examined and if beneficial to Councillors that consideration should be given to transferring to class A.
10. At present Councillors under 50 years of age who lose/resign their Council seats or decide to cease to be Councillors do not get the gratuity to which they are entitled until they reach the age of 50 years. We believe that this age limit should be removed as many former Councillors under 50 years of age find themselves in a financially difficult position on leaving their posts.
11. Councillor’s supports – provision of IT equipment, stationary etc by Local Authorities. Guidelines for the provision of these supports should be issued by the DoECLG as at present there is a lot of inconsistency in this with generally speaking, but not in all cases, some of the bigger Councils providing the supports with the smaller Councils not doing so.

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