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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Councillors and candidates offering monetary inducements to community groups. Please Stop

Can this practice of councillors and candidates offering some of their own pay or expenses to community groups please stop, the job of a councillor is direct (strategically if not executively) the entire spending of the council, not just a small collection of the money, if you don't take your expenses then don't take them, though I have no problem with councillors using their expenses allowance aslong as its used well.

The job of a councillor is not try to impress various community groups by offering them some of your money (or potentially your money).

If you think councillors are paid too much then campaign and work in the council to reduce the payments for all councillors.

There are candidates making these promises but also councillors have diverted funds from expenses to the community, councillors can vote such a measure through at budget time but this is still problematic, particularily if the money has to be requested through members, even if it is to be sought via council staff, it may still be seen as the councillor's funds.

This is particularily a problem around elections, what were these new and incumbent candidates promising people (involved in community groups) on the door step in relation to giving away their money as inducement to vote for them.

A candidate promoting himself for election is saying he will give 20% of his salary, if elected to community groups, I don't know what personal private charitable donations have got to do with the political policy management of a local authority.

The Standards in Public office do not over see the conduct of candidates only elected officials.

LOCAL ELECTIONS REGULATIONS, 1995.
http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1995/en/si/0297.html#zzsi297y1995a96
http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1965/en/si/0128.html#zzsi128y1965a88

LOCAL ELECTIONS REGULATIONS, 1995 section 96


96.
(1) A person shall not, in relation to an election—

(a) give valuable consideration to induce a voter to vote...

(4) In this article—

"give", "induce" and "procure" include agreeing or promising or attempting to give, induce or procure, as the case may be, and whether directly or indirectly;

"valuable consideration" includes the giving, lending or agreeing to give or lend, or the offer or promise to procure or to attempt to procure, any money, money's worth or valuable security or any valuable consideration or any office, place or employment to or for any person;

So it talks of specific voter but some candidates made the inducement to everyone and anyone on the radio in newspapers and in their leaflets.

The councillors are required to submit a Declaration of Ethics, ie a declaration of interests I asked my Local council when the new councillors will be ready, they will be ready soon but the my local authority has never published them online they available at the LA HQ you can see Declarations of ethics from Dublin City Council


Code of Conduct for councillors
Local Government Act 2001 Section 169
Code of Conduct for Councillors June 2004

3.6 ... The public perception of the way a councillor is seen to deal with such matters is important for the maintenance of trust in local government.

3.7 ... The test to be applied by a councillor is not just what s/he might think - but rather whether a member of the public knowing the facts of the situation would reasonably think that the interest concerned might influence the person in the performance of his or her functions. If so, disclosure should
follow and a councillor should consider whether in the circumstances s/he should withdraw from consideration of the matter. In this context it is important to ensure that as well as the avoidance of actual impropriety, occasions for suspicion and appearance of improper conduct are also avoided in case of private or personal interests.

These quotes are in reference to disclosure of interests but I think it shows that the rule that its not just corruption but the perception of corruption that must be avoided applies for councillors generally.

Unilateral versus voted

There is a difference between unilateral promise to to give money to community groups and a voted diversions of pay or expensed at budget time. Most of those promising reductions intend to get it passed at budget time but they cannot guarantee that that will happen at election time.

If a councillor doesn't need the pay or expenses then it should simply be subsumed into the general budget and not diverted to their pet projects in their area, it shouldn't be used as auction politics at election time.

This issue is live soon the councillors will vote at budget meetings to either divert expenses to something that were never meant for or use the council chamber to advertise their private salary donations to groups that they had promised during the campaign and soon it will be too late to do anything about again for another year or another five years. Once a councillor gets his payments it is his own private money and thus these will be private charitable donations he should not be allowed to use those to influence the electoral process, nor should expenses designated for X be used for Y and also used in electoral promotional material to influence the election and we've seen recently that just because its a charity doesn't mean it shouldn't be scrutinised or that you can turn a blind eye to it.
A recent attempt at Limerick Council explains the situation. Limerick councillors can’t transfer unused expenses

Cllr Murray’s motion read: “That Council policy is adjusted to allow Councillors move any unspent expenses, including those available for attendence at conferences, to their Members Development Fund in order to directly support the local community.”

Cllr McGarvey’s read: “Can my money allocation for conferences be transferred to my Development Fund to assist community organisations.”
Both Cllrs received the same response to their questions in which they were told that it was not possbile under the Local Government Act 2001, Section 142 (5).

The response said: “The Council may decide at budget time to reduce the provision for Members’ expenses, including conferences, and increase the provision for the Members Development Fund; however, there is no basis for individual members assigning part of their individual allowance for attendance at conferences to other purposes.”

Although Councillor Padraig McEvoy of Kildare has seemed to have managed to do this, diverting expenses to local projects nominated by him listed here and noted in the register of payments. I have not found where in the budget or ordinary meetings he got this voted through although it seems the council have agreed to facilitate it.



Fingal

Attempt made to reduce expenses allowance from the Mayorm Deputy and SPC chairs and divert to sporting programmes in 2010, it was withdrawn.

Strategic Policy Committee chairpersons could lose €8k expenses if bid is success Independent.ie John MANNING 22/12/2010

Cllr's attempt to cut mayor's allowances 'publicity stunt' Independent.ie John MANNING 22/12/2010

The budget meeting where his motion was discussed and withdrawn to be look at again at an internal Operation and procedures meeting.
21st December, 2010 Budget Meeting

In the course of a general discussion on the Annual Budget, the following motion in the name of Councillor Eoghan O’Brien, was proposed by Councillor Eoghan O’Brien, seconded by Councillor Darragh Butler:

'Motion Division F.

Add €48,950 to F04 to increase funding for Sporting Programmes to €114.450 from €65,500. This money to be taken from H0903, (reducing SPC Allowances from 30,000 to 0,) and H0902 (reducing Mayors taxable allowance from 22,100 to 11,050 and Deputy Mayors taxable allowance from 7,900 to 0.)'

In the course of a prolonged discussion on this item, the Mayor stated that he viewed this motion as a personal attack on himself and highlighted the fact that the Mayor of Fingal was in fact paid less than that of Galway, Cork or South Dublin. Mr. Peter Caulfield, Head of Corporate Affairs clarified that the payment to the Chairs of SPC’s was in fact a Statutory Payment and accordingly could not be altered. Several Members then spoke against the motion and urged Councillor O’Brien to withdraw the motion. Councillor O’Brien, in response, stated that the motion was in no way intended as a personal attack, but in light of the sentiments expressed during the discussion he agreed that the motion be withdrawn.
It was noted that the issue of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s allowance could be further discussed at a future Organisation and Procedure Committee Meeting should the Members so wish.


Redirection of expenses

What is the standard required to get the money compared to other funding grant schemes?

Budget Sub Service

Division Miscellaneous Services
Service Local Representation & Civic Leadership
Subservice H0904 Expenses LA Members
Subservice H0906 Conferences Abroad
Subservice H0905 Other Expenses

Subservice H0901 Representational Payments

Fingal County Council Expenditure Budget on Open Spending.

Has anyone ever tried to divert councillors pay rather then expenses?

Kildare County council Budget 2008 diverted to waste allowances. 45,000 Taken from Representative Payments budget, with 25 county councillors thats 1,800 les pay.

SDCC

SDCC Mayors Fund
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/index.aspx?pageid=939&pid=27293 announcement http://thelooneyleft.blogspot.ie/2013/12/50-community-groups-to-benefit-from.html local newspaper http://www.intallaght.ie/mayors-fund-supporting-communities/

when was it voted through?
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/sdcc/departments/corporate/apps/cmas/viewmeetingagenda.aspx?id=1115 2013 Budget meeting
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/sdcc/departments/corporate/apps/cmas/viewmeetingagenda.aspx?id=1123 link to 2013 Budget Minutes
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/sdcc/departments/corporate/apps/cmas/viewmeetingagenda.aspx?id=1115 2013 Budget meeting agenda

Mobility Aids Housing Grants increased from LA member expenses and conferences budget, voted and approved by all but 1 member.
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/sdcc/departments/corporate/apps/cmas/viewmeetingagenda.aspx?id=1115 2013 Budget Minutes .doc

http://www.sdublincoco.ie/index.aspx?pageid=939&pid=28354 list of awardeees, have they funding elsehwere ? could they have?
http://www.intallaght.ie/mayors-fund/
http://irishelectionliterature.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/newsletter-from-dermot-looney-independent-terenure-templeogue-2014-local-elections/ photographs of fund recipients used for electoral purposes

Members expenses redirected to burial costs
http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.ie/2012/12/cost-of-burial-plots-in-south-dublin-to.html
http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/1215/309958-graves/
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/sdcc/departments/corporate/apps/cmas/documentsview.aspx?id=34822 2011 Annual Budget .doc pg.167 agreed by all
http://www.sdublincoco.ie/index.aspx?pageid=5898&year=2012 same in 2012
http://www.sdcc.ie/sites/default/files/publications/adopted-budget-2014.pdf increased Mobility Aids Housing Grant reduced Expenses and Conferences fees 2014

DLRCC
http://www.dlrcoco.ie/Meetings/2011/CountyCouncil/Dec11_budget.pdf reduced outdoor events expenses and conferences budget and increased community grants, footpath repairs. page 6 some councillors voted against it.

DCC
http://www.thejournal.ie/dublin-city-council-rent-payment-1276720-Jan2014/
http://www.thejournal.ie/oisin-quinn-says-draft-budget-will-not-pass-1260768-Jan2014/
http://www.thejournal.ie/dcc-passes-budget-that-restores-homeless-1264940-Jan2014/
http://dublincity.ie/sites/default/files/content//YourCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Documents/MinutesforBudgetMeeting14Jan14.pdf vote butbudget subdivisions change unclear
http://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0114/497885-dublin-city-council/
http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/23692
https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2014-04-03a.377

Ward Funds/Descretionary Funds/Notice of Motion

This is the first I've heard of this councillors ward fund Councillors resist plan to publish fund details | Irish Examiner

Pay rates

Councillors’ payments: €1,297 a month representational payment.
* €444 a month to cover administrative costs.
* €4,700 (guideline minimum amount) in annual conference expenses.
* €8,000 annual ward fund.

wondering where the Ward Fund cames from, it may have been councillors were offering their expenses allocations to community groups so often that it became a thing in itself and now each councillor gets a patronage payment.

do all councils have a version of this? Council community Payments

An example of Ward Fund use in 2004 just before the election Thanks for the skip!

The practice in cork hs been going on 30 years and former councillor and senator now council candidate Dan Boyle (Green Party) calls it a 'slush fund' even with the increased transparency.

Cork City council now publishes an official list but doesn't name the member associated with the payment. Cork City Budget

heres an example of of the pay outs to community groups Cllr. Kieran McCarthy » Ward Funds 2014 but why does the council give councillors extra money that the community groups have to go begging for from the councillors of each ward.

Is there such a fund at my local council or will there be in the next elected council? Are there other sources of funding for community groups?

A councillor saying he can no longer give his own money to groups if they cut his expenses Councillor Paddy Kilduff says he can no longer support community groups | Shannonside what money is he giving to groups, is it registered?


Although there has been a reluctant increase in transparency in recent years it still insufficient, it will still be perceived political patronage fund even if administered by the council, banning this practice is the only option.

Stronger penalties needed for officials breaking ethics laws, says Transparency International Ireland

TI Ireland strongly supports SIPOC’s call, in the wake of the Mayo County Council investigation, for a review of the use of discretionary funds by local authority members by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on a national basis to ensure that scarce public resources are not abused in future.

Mayo case here from SIPO about how a council employee asked councillors to use 'notice of motions' to improve access to his land Standards in Public Office Commission - Annual Report 2009 - Chapter 2 - Ethics and how his council gave him a pass on most of it while SIPO said he did not act in good faith.


Update I complained about candidates mostly of non-government parties offering inducement but now we have the government announcing all sorts just before the election.
Hogan launches €3 million Public Area Enhancement Scheme 18/03/14
Public Area Enhancement Scheme General List of projects Fingal Details

Community Funding
Fingal Community Grants |Openspending.org
Information on Grants and Funding Community Culture & Sports Registration
Activity Funding Brochure
Fingal Community Development Information Booklet

The Community, Culture and Sports Division provide funding under a number of headings to community, arts and sports groups. The funding involved, approx.
€250.000 in 2014, is raised as part of the Fingal Budgetary process and is greatly appreciated by the groups benefiting (approx.. 180 groups in 2013)
Fingal County council meeting 3rd Septmeber 2014

Fingal council community funds collection grants 2013...


€900,000 funding boost for Fingal groups
Fingal community, sports groups get E720,000 in grants Independent.ie 2011
Corporate community fundings schemes eg Dublin Bus Eirgrid, DAA.
Central Government funding Libraries, Grafitti and Litter,Central Anti-Litter and Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme Community Graffiti Reduction Programme 2008, Local Agenda 21, Local Agenda 21 (LA21) Environmental Partnership Fund 2014 2013 2012 Successful LA21 Projects
Capital Programme 2013

From Central Government
Sustainable Communittees Fund Grantees 2007
Central Government Anti grafitti grant
Government Sports Capital Fund Sports Capital Fund Grants 2014
FCC Residents Association handbook
activities of the Community Department in the D15 area for 2012.
Fingal Leader
Rapid
Fingal Integration Grant Scheme
Area Partnership
Fingal Childcare Grants
Heritage Council Grant Schemeheritage Fingal Grants 2012 - Built Heritage jobs
National Lottery Funding Grant Scheme €150,000 awarded to local groups Health- Dublin Gazette 2013 Children
Professional Artists Fingal Arts
community facilities in the Howth-Malahide Ward that are specifically supported by Fingal County Council
Government Social and Community Facilities Capital Scheme
Public Area Enhancement Scheme. 25% matching funding from Council

Expenses
I tried to work how much Fingal Councillors Pay and Expenses 2009 to 2014
were and how much Fingal Councillors Pay and Expenses 2014 to 2019
are going to be.

If any councillors thinks their pay or expenses are too much, work to cut them.

If they think expenses are too much you work to reduce them, does it really make sense to spend money marked for X for Y?

If it is their payment that want to use I'm not sure what personal private charitable donations have got to do with political policy management of a local authority.

Councillors should do the most for the community by using the position they are elected to, not by doling out their money to those groups.

The conference payments have been reduced from €4700 to €700 (€1000 if specially approved), so there is less of a reason to redirect that money.

Hogan welcomes the most radical reform of local government in over 100 years.

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