Need to be “open and honest” on expenses claims - Cllr

A local Town Councillor has asked for a breakdown of her and fellow councillors expenses and says it is vital to be “open and honest” with the public.

A local Town Councillor has asked for a breakdown of her and fellow councillors expenses and says it is vital to be “open and honest” with the public.

Cllr Michelle Bradley queried the effectiveness of councillors claiming high expenses and mileage for attending conferences throughout the country when she spoke at Wednesday’s meeting of Buncrana Town Council.

The Fine Gael councillor said it was necessary to be more “prudent” when it came to going to conferences in Clare or Kerry.

She said: “We need to assess what benefit some of these conferences have to the town as there is a lot of information we can access online.

She said she doesn’t see the point in a number of councillors attending the same conference and “doubling up on the mileage”. She added she didn’t know why “car pooling” couldn’t happen.

The Crana College teacher asked the Town Manager if it would be possible they could each split the €16,000, which the councillors are allocated for their expenses, equally and spend it as they see fit in the community.

Town Clerk Seamus Canning said council was not able to spend the money allocated for travel on local community or voluntary groups as it was designated for training, travel or expenses.

Independent councillor Michael Grant said it was a good point if the money could be spent on furthering the education of councillors, but felt conferences could be extremely “beneficial” to members.

“Not everyone might further themselves through academia so maybe conferences could be my way of using my expenses allocation.”

Former Mayor Nicholas Crossan said he could see where Cllr Bradley was coming from: “We are the most northerly Urban Council in Ireland and for that reason we are at a disadvantage because we can’t afford to travel to every conference. It takes us two hours to get out of our own county for a start. I can see where she [Cllr Bradley] is coming from by saying we need to be prudent when deciding which ones we attend.”

The council officials confirmed that in 2011 €15,411 was spent of members’ conference fees and expenses and that €16,000 had been allocated from Budget 2012 towards the same costs.