FERMANAGH and Omagh councillors claimed over £75,000 in expenses in the last financial year travelling to conferences and meetings, it has been revealed.
Figues on Members Allowances for 2015-2016 were published this week by the local authority and reveal a travel bill which totalled £75,338.
On top of that all 40 councillors are given a standard salary. For the year ending on 31st March 2017, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council agreed the payment of an annual basic allowance of £14,200 to each councillor which amounted to a total of £567,998.
Members are allowed to claim expenses which include a special responsibility allowance, 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 £24,840 was paid out to 14 members last year. The hightest recipient was planning committee chairman, Sinn Fein’s Glenn Campbell at £4,200. An allowance rate of £3,200 is paid to each of the committee chairs of Environmental Services, Regeneration and Community and Policy and Resources with these payments being made to Cllrs Frankie Donnelly (SF), Brendan Gallagher (SDLP) and the DUP’s Errol Thompson.
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.
The Sinn Fein councillor Thomas O’Reilly, who was last year’s chairman, topped the mileage list claiming £5,805 in travel expenses during the last financial year on top of his £10,000 Chairman’s Allowance. The DUP’s Paul Robinson, who was vice-chairman last year for which he received a £5,000 allowance, claimed £4,680 in mileage.
As chairman and vice-chairman, Cllrs O’Reilly and Robinson would have to carry out extra duties and travel extra miles compared to their council colleagues as they are invited to formal events as well as greeting visiting delegates.
Also in the top ten mileage claimants were Sinn Fein’s Brian McCaffrey who claimed back £5,530; the Ulster Unionist’s Alex Baird £4,758; Allan Rainey (UUP)£4,615; the UUP’s Howard Thornton £3,836; John Coyle SDLP £3,599; former UUP councillor and now MLA Rosemary Barton £3,146; the DUP’s Errol Thompson £3,104 and Robert Irvine of the UUP £3,055.
Only three of the 40 councillors did not claim any mileage expenses throughout the whole year – Sinn Fein’s Barry Doherty and John Feely and Rosemarie Shields of the SDLP.
Other allowances, including food and office costs, falls under the expenses group where a councillor can claim back money for eating out while carrying out council duties. Twelve councillors racked up a bill of £800 on telephone broadband.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere
Posted: 9:00 pm July 6, 2016