Councillors pick up £19,400 on average in annual allowances

Councillors pick up £19,400 on average in annual allowances

20 January 2021

NEW figures published by the TaxPayers’ Alliance have revealed that Newry, Mourne and Down councillors picked up an average of nearly £19,400 each in allowances.

The figures — which relate to the 2018/19 financial year — show that the total amount of cash which the local authority paid to councillors was £795,385. Province-wide, the total amount paid by 11 district councils was £8.2m.

The money includes councillors’ basic allowance and any special allowances, with the latter paid to those who hold senior positions on various committees.

Spend on total allowances over the year ending June 2019 ranged from approximately £664,00 in Ards and North Down Council to just over £1m in Belfast City Council.

Each councillor is paid a basic allowance of £14,775, with the payment increasing for those who are appointed the chair and vice-chairs of various committees. Councillors are also able to claim a mileage allowance while on local authority business.

For the last financial year, the basic allowance increased to £15,071, a rise of almost £300.

“Taxpayers in Northern Ireland will be surprised to discover how much councillors’ special relationship allowances vary from council to the next,” said TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive John O’Connell.

The councillors’ allowance is set by the Department for Communities and independently benchmarked by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), the umbrella group for Northern Ireland’s 11 councils.

Its chief executive, Derek McCallan, said the allowance recognises a time commitment of councillors, explaining that typically they are engaged in council constituent business in excess of 50 hours a week, including inevitable calls on their time.

He said councillors are also making decisions on vital services, infrastructure and investment.

“Calculated on an hourly basis, this payment is obviously small, proportionate to the demands of the role and the time required to do it.

“The overall cost is — set against all other forms of political governance — modest and justifiable, set against the responsibilities, time and resilience required for working all year and being permanently on call,” said Mr McCallan.