Councillors Conditions - Senator Black calls for more to be done
I welcome the Minister to the House and acknowledge the planned changes to the members' annual fixed allowance. In particular, I note his acknowledgement that the changes are a response to the increased workload of elected members arising from the local government reforms of 2014, in particular the allocation of new statutory functions. I also welcome the city and county councillors who are in the Gallery. They do very hard work as the Minister said.
I have never been a councillor but my experience with them was when I sought election to the House. It was my first time understanding and realising the fantastic work they do. I see Councillor Joe Malone in the Gallery. I got to meet people who worked extremely hard every single day. I was really amazed by it. In my work with the RISE Foundation and working with the drugs task force, on which many councillors sit, I see every day the fantastic work they do. I got a really good understanding of their work. It is safe to say that no one becomes a city or county councillor for financial reward. There is no doubt about that. The rate of pay works out below the minimum wage for most of them when the long hours are taken into account.
The Minister mentioned the survey. I am glad he did because I was struck when I read it by some of the quotes from county councillors in particular. One woman said it was nearly impossible to be a mother and an elected representative while holding down another job on the payment councillors received. On my travels, I met a woman who was a county councillor who also had to do nursing at night. Her husband was ill. She was an amazing woman. She really wanted to do the work, but she could not, unfortunately. This is really important.
I encourage the Minister to think about the €1,000 allowance and the inequality and unfairness of the fact that Dublin, Cork and Galway city councillors are not getting it. I wish he would consider that. I would like to work with the Minister on this issue.