Councillors rack up hefty £73,000 travel bill


Fermanagh and Omagh District Council meet at the Townhall in Enniskillen


LOCAL councillors claimed over £73,000 in expenses in the last financial year travelling to conferences and meetings, it has been revealed.
Figures on Members Allowances for 2017-2018 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 2018, Fermanagh and Omagh District Councillors each received an annual basic allowance (salary) of £14,485, which was paid to all 40 members last year. The total basic allowance bill came to £579,398. 
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 £25,444 was paid out to 18 members last year. The highest recipient was the UUP’s Robert Irvine at £3,442. 
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.
Sinn Fein councillor, Stephen McCann who was last year’s chairman, claimed £3,367 for travel to meetings and conferences on top of his £8,194 chairman’s allowance. 
Ulster Unionist Cllr Alex Baird was vice-chairman last year for which he received a £4,097 allowance and claimed the highest amount of mileage of all 40 councillors, £5,638. The second highest travel bill came from his party colleague Allan Rainey at £5,203 followed by Sinn Fein’s Brian McCaffrey who claimed back £5,197; John Coyle (SDLP) £4,466; DUP councillor Paul Robinson £4,358; the UUP’s Howard Thornton £3,810; UUP member Robert Irvine £3,551 and Thomas O’Reilly (SF) £3,353. 
Only six of the 40 councillors did not claim any mileage expenses throughout the whole year – Sinn Fein’s Barry Doherty and John Feely, Independents Josephine Deehan and Joanne Donnelly, the UUP’s Chris Smyth and Brendan Gallagher of the SDLP.
A total of £4,411 was the bill for sending 18 councillors to conferences while £1,430 was spent on mobile broadband by eight members. 

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