LOCAL councillors claimed over £74,000 in expenses in the last financial year travelling to conferences and meetings, it has been revealed.
Figures on Members Allowances for 2016-2017 were published this week by the local authority and reveal the sums paid to the 40 sitting councillors.
For the year ending on 31st March 2017, Fermanagh and Omagh District Councillors each received an annual basic allowance (salary) of £14,295, which was paid to 38 members last year. Following the May 2016 Assembly election, two new councillors were co-opted a month later – the UUP’s Diana Armstong replaced Rosemary Barton while the SDLP selected Garbhan McPhillips to take the seat previously held by his father, Richie. Both received a reduced salary of £11,652 while outgoing Mrs Barton and Mr McPhillips received £1,451 each to reflect their limited period on the council before moving to Stormont. The total basic allowance bill came to £569,403.
Members are allowed to claim expenses which include a special responsibility allowance, telephone broadband, business travel and standard expenses. The special responsibility allowance is an additional expense given to councillors who carry out more senior roles or who have extra duties within a particular department. However, under the council’s guidelines for expenses it states that no more than 50 per cent of councillors should receive the special responsibility with the maximum number set at 20. A total of £25,162 was paid out to 18 members last year. The highest recipient was Sinn Fein’s Barry McNally at £3,418.
Under the business travel category councillors can claim allowances for public transport, car mileage, supplements, taxis, air fares, car parking and day/overnight subsistence allowances.
SDLP councillor Mary Garrity, who was last year’s chairman, claimed £1,546 for travel to meetings and conferences and £427 in expenses on top of her £8,139 chairman’s allowance. Ulster Unionist Cllr Bert Wilson was vice-chairman last year for which he received a £4,069 allowance and claimed £1,948 in mileage.