Two Nenagh councillors want the time of the local council meeting changed because it is affecting their normal working day.
The call was made at the September meeting of Nenagh Municipal District Council by Sinn Fein’s Cllr Seamus Morris and Independent Cllr Hughie McGrath.
The issue arose after councillors were told they had to hold the October meeting on a date between October 20 and October 30 as per the local government rules.
However, it was pointed out that the meetings were agreed for the third Thursday of each month and arrangements had been made with employers.
“I have had to take 31 days off work,” declared Cllr Seamus Morris, a postman in Nenagh Post Office. He called for meetings to be rescheduled for 4pm as having meetings at 10am meant he had to take a full day from work.
“My company are being good to me, but some day they’ll say ‘No’,” he said. “It is becoming a difficulty for me.”
Cllr McGrath, who works for Kellys of Fantane, supported him, saying: “You have work to do. My company has been good to me. It would handier if at least some of the meetings were at 4pm.”
He pointed out that Dublin City Council meets at 5pm and Galway meets at 4pm.
“In fairness, we signed up for it, but if we stay going, employers may not agree and becoming councillors could become harder and harder,” he said. “I use my holidays. It’s an issue if you want people to take this on.”
Cllr Morris agreed and pointed out it could be difficult to attract people into becoming councillors.
However, district administrator Rosemary Joyce pointed out that it was the councillors themselves who had agreed the meeting times under Standing Orders. “We can go back to the Standing Orders committee but it is very difficult not to have a set time. I don’t want it to go out that the meetings were decided by the executive,” she said.
Ms Joyce said that while she appreciated their point, she had to point out that there other councillors who wanted morning meetings.
She pointed out that council staff may have to travel from Clonmel for meetings.
Tipperary County Council meets 11 times during the year, with no meetings in August. The municipal district councils also have the same schedule. However, during the year the council would also hold workshops on various topics such as development plans or budgets.
On top of the council commitments, councillors are nominated and agree to be on a number of committees. Cllr Morris sits on the Rural Water Monitoring Committee while Cllr McGrath is on North Tipperary Genealogy and Heritages Services and is also a member of the Brussels-based Committee of the Regions, to which he was nominated by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, and for which he receives expenses only.
Councillors receive a representational payment of €16,565 per annum which is subject to PAYE in the normal way and to the appropriate rate of PRSI. They also receive a fixed annual allowance towards meetings and other expenses which is non-taxable and subject to attendance at meetings. This allowance comprises postage, telephone and general representation expenses of €2,413, subject to attending a minimum of 50 per cent of the required meetings, plus travel allowance from home to council head office at 0.5907 per km, plus a subsistence allowance of €1,848.55.
Councillors also receive ad-hoc expenses for conferences and other events, with a conference allowance of €700 per annum. They also receive a training allowance subject to attendance at specified training events and other appropriate events organised by national representative and programmes of education and training.
Councillors also get an annual mobile phone allowance of 50 per cent of total vouched costs of mobile phone usage subject to a maximum allowance of €600 per annum.
The chairs of Strategic Policiy Committees receive a non-taxable expense allowance of €6,000 per annum.