FERMOY TOWN COUNCILLOR’S EXPENSES UNDER FIRE
Members of Fermoy Town Council have called for an overhaul of the expenses system for councillors as figures covering the nine months from January 2008 were revealed this week.
The circulation is the first time a detailed breakdown of expenses claims has been issued to councillors following recent motions on the figures.
Amongst the claims that has raised eyebrows amongst local councillors is the €93.50 the then Mayor of Fermoy William Hughes claimed for travel expenses for attending a Cork County Council meeting in Mitchelstown last May.
Cllr Hughes also claimed the exact same sum for attending a similar meeting in Mallow the previous April. Cllr Hughes has since told The Avondhu that the mileage claimed for the trip to Mitchelstown was done in error, and that he will address the issue with the town clerk.
“To be fair the expenses are there to be claimed but to me there is a flaw in the system. In my opinion, when the country is in the middle of a downturn, it is a step too far to claim nearly €100 to go from Fermoy to Mitchelstown,” Sinn Fein Councillor Seamus Coleman said this week.
The main source of contention amongst some councillors, however, are the amounts paid to send representatives to conferences, such as the €3,672.06 paid to four councillors to attend an Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland conference in Sligo last September 10 – 13.
“I don’t want to focus too much on William,” Cllr Coleman continued, “What really angers me is this trip to Sligo, which to me is an absolute waste of money. There is no good reason for 4 councillors to go to Sligo.
"I feel there should be a change to the rules so that councillors have to ask for permission to go to these conferences, and two representatives from the council at any one conference should be enough.” Cllr Peter Merrigan agrees that such a step is necessary.
“My question would be are the people and taxpayers of Fermoy getting value for money? Both Cllr Coleman and I have pushed to have reports issued to the council by those who attend conferences – so far we have only received reports from Cllrs Aileen Pyne and John Murphy. Two Fermoy town councillors attended a conference on nuclear hazards in Dublin last January and we have heard nothing about it.”
“My suggestion for the next election would be that councillors have to ask permission from the rest of the council to attend these conferences. The idea that collectively councillors can spend serious money, upwards from €20,000 and give no return, perhaps with the exception of certain individual councillors in particular, is unacceptable,” he said this week.
Mayor of Fermoy Tadhg O’Donovan has come out in defence of the expenses, after it was asked as to why he charged two separate amounts to travel to council meetings in Mallow.
“The public are entitled to know these figures, however they must also understand that the money is awarded by the council office after we put in claims. Anyone who has any further queries are more than welcome to go to the town hall and question the sums involved. Town councillors have nothing to hide.”
Mayor O’Donovan added that the figures must be put into context when considering the loss of earnings suffered by councillors when representing Fermoy Town Council.
“If councillors decide not to go to conferences on behalf of the town that is their prerogative. But I, for example, only claimed about two thirds of the total conference expenses I am entitled to, as agreed by the council. That is because I am not always in a position to attend these conferences, but when I am I suffer loss of earnings for which I am not compensated. Town councillors are entitled to some expenses such as mileage however,” he said.
Speaking to The Avondhu this week Cllr Michael Hanley said that he welcomed the information being released into the public domain but would reserve comment until he had examined the figures further.
Thursday 6th November 6:20pm