Cllr Chris Pender has submitted a motion to Kildare County Council calling on councillors to consider returning part of their expenses that cover ‘travel allowances’ to their meetings.
The Newbridge based Social Democrats representative is asking for a voluntary scheme where councillors can defer their travel expenses while meetings are held online.
Cllr Pender said:
“In line with Government guidelines and in response to the increasing number of positive cases, we agreed at last December’s meeting that all statutory meetings of council and municipal districts in January would be fully online. I put forward a motion to the council relating to the travel expenses/remittance we are paid for our travel and attendance at 80% of these meetings.”
Cllr Pender’s motion, which will be discussed at the next full council meeting, is likely to generate further debate about councillors’ salaries and expenses. This is something he is hoping for.
“In a time when people are struggling, it is incumbent upon us to lead by example. While this remuneration may not amount to much, it can show that we are indeed all in this together and that we do understand the difference a loss of something like €50 a week can make.
“It is important to remember that some councillors, for multiple different reasons, are still travelling to get to online meetings. Issues such as broadband coverage and IT knowledge play into this too, and it is for that reason that I have asked for a voluntary scheme.”
Cllr Pender took the unusual step of publishing his Revenue statement for last year, which showed him earning one of the lowest amounts as a councillor, taking in €19,088.48. However, he feels that getting paid for something he is not doing – like travelling – is just not right.
“I would like to return the travel element but there is currently no mechanism for me to do so. I hope all my colleagues will vote to allow me to do this. They are under no obligation to follow suit but I would like to be able to do right by my constituents. It is important that people feel that taxpayers’ money is not being squandered. It is clear we need a better system to reimburse locally elected representatives.”
Cllr Pender, who was elected first time in 2019, is in the process of opening a constituency office in Newbridge.
“I understand that money is tight for everyone right now, and I would like to play my part by returning to the taxpayer what isn’t rightfully mine.”
January 22, 2021