Councillor gratuity payments – what are they and how much did my local rep receive?
Not many people are aware that local councillors who lose their seats in an election are entitled to a parachute payment to cushion the blow.
Even fewer are aware politicians promoted from city and county councils to the Dail, Seanad or European Parliament are also entitled to the one-off lump sum.
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It is even a mystery to some of our local representatives.
Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae told the Sunday Independent he was unaware of the benefit until he was contacted by Kerry County Council following his election to the Dail in 2016. Sinn Fein’s Pat Buckley was not aware of the sum he was in-line to receive until he was contacted by this newspaper.
The payments, known as gratuities, are made in recognition for long service. At the higher end they are worth almost €80,000.
In order to qualify for the payment a former councillor must have served at least two years on a local authority. It cannot be made until the former councillor has turned 50, unless they have a permanent illness. In some cases the payments are made to the next of kin of a representative after a councillor has died in office or passed away shortly after vacating their seat.
In the case of Mr Buckley, he only turned 50 this year and has yet to receive the payment.
The system used to calculate gratuities is a complicated one.
For politicians elected to city and county councils after 2010, the gratuity is one fifth of the current annual representational payment – a sum of €16,891. Breaking this down, the gratuity works out at €3,378.20 for every year served on the council. It is capped at four times the annual representational payment after 20 years served on a council.
For local representatives first elected before 2010 there is another set of criteria to be considered. This entitles former councillors to €714.23 per year for each of the first 20 years served and €476.15 for each year after up to a maximum of 40 years.
Politicians who sat on the now disbanded town councils are entitled to reduced payments. These vary depending on the size of the council, making the gratuity due to the longest serving councillors even more complicated to calculate.
Following the local election in May, the Sunday Independent contacted all 31 local authorities to compile a list of payments to all former councillors during the last council term.
Nearly all of the councils were able to supply the information requested. However, the county councils in Clare and Wexford refused to outline how much was paid to individual former councils and only provided a sum that was shared among politicians.
Last June Roscommon County Council said it did not have “that information to hand at present”. It has since failed to respond to six subsequent requests for payment details.
Kerry County Council has not completed the payments to former councillors who left their seats this year. It said it could not provide payment details until these are paid but it was able to outline payments made in recent years to other former councillors.
The Sunday Independent also requested a list of gratuities due to councillors who resigned, lost and vacated their seats before or during this year’s election. This threw up an eclectic list of national politicians who previously served a local authority, well-known former county councillors and less well-known former town councillors. Many had recently celebrated a 50th birthday and just became old enough to claim the payment. Happy birthday, indeed.
The payments listed cover time served on city, county, borough or town councils. In some cases a councillor has served on one or more bodies. All figures are gross sums and subject to taxation at rates depending on a former councillor’s personal circumstances.
In most cases the councillors have received the payment outlined. In others, the payment is pending or has been preserved until the former councillor reaches the appropriate age. In some cases the local authorities have disclosed preserved and pending payments due to former councillors. Other local authorities only calculate these sums when the councillor is old enough or seeking to claim the payment.
* denotes preserved payments
† denotes a pending payment
Total Payments across all Local Authorities: €8,414,436.49
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