The issue of spending on conferences and training for Councillors has long been an issue that has attracted much attention, from both the media and the public. Understandably as Councils all over Ireland are being asked to do more with less the question is rightly asked: Why are Councillors still claiming expenses for these types of activities?
I have examined figure from 2012 and according to Fingal County Council’s own website in total €36,104 was claimed by Councillors. In the overall budget it is small however considering the Council increased levies on clubs to cover costs on sport pitches this year it is difficult to understand why this type of spending has continued.
Questions also need to be asked as to how useful some of this training really or how the seminars improve a Councillor’s performance. For example it is difficult to understand what benefits the people of Fingal are getting from any Councillor who attends a conference on “Utilising your tax entitlements and reliefs” or “Media Social Media & Effective Time Management”. I am sure they were interesting conferences I just don’t think it should be funded by the tax payer. Equally attendance in 2012 at the “West Cork Fusion – An exploration of West Cork Culture & Artisan Foods” I am sure broadened the mind of any Councillor attending although the benefit to Fingal residents is questionable.
Fingal County Councillors also found themselves travelling outside Ireland to places like Chengdu in China, Prague in the Czech Republic, Vienna in Austria, Tbilisi in Georgia, Genval in Belgium and Grodzisk in Poland. While trips overseas to promote economic investment are absolutely essential from an examination of the expenses claimed and the purpose of the trip there is no evidence to suggest that any meaningful economic return came from Councillors jaunts overseas.
Frankly more of the same isn’t good enough. The days of conferences for conferences’ sake need to end. The days of Councillors ratcheting up air miles and conference expenses need to end. If elected I would propose that if Councillors wish to attend a seminar or conference they should use their yearly allowance that is paid to Councillors. The days of expenses for travel, seminars and conferences need to come to an end.