Severance pay for councillors could total over £140k

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TEN Larne councillors could be in line for pay-offs totalling up to £142,400 as part of the reorganisation of local government.

With elections to the proposed new councils set to take place next year, long-serving members who choose to step down from political life are being offered a severance package to recognise their lengthy service to the community.

To be eligible for the scheme, applicants must have been a sitting councillor for a minimum of 12 years. There will be a cap of £35,000 on individual payments.

Members who qualify for the payments include Ald Roy Beggs, Cllr Bobby McKee, Ald Winston Fulton, Cllr Brian Dunn, Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna, Cllr Gregg McKeen, Cllr Martin Wilson, Cllr Roy Craig, Ald Jack McKee and Cllr John Mathews.

There will be two periods when councillors will be able to apply for severance. The first will run from August 1 to December 31, and any member who makes an application during this period will have to resign their seat with immediate effect. The vacant seat could then be filled by co-option.

Members who apply after January 1, 2014 will be entitled to hold their seat through to the date of the new election, with severance paid after they give up their seat. However, councillors who unsuccessfully stand at the election will not be eligible for severance.

Payments will be calculated on set amounts for each year of service and will be reflective of graduating payments, which are designed to recognise service provided by members during the height of the Troubles.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “This scheme is designed to recognise the contribution of long-serving councillors who will not be standing for re-election, many of whom have served their communities during periods of political unrest. These councillors have made a significant contribution to the needs of people in their areas.

“I believe that those who were councillors for long years, who worked hard, who did so at times under threat, often in challenging conditions and during the worst of disorder and violence, should be recognised as they leave council life. I think this is widely accepted. I hope so. I believe it is right.”

While councils are responsible for making the severance payments, the cost will be reimbursed by the Department of the Environment. It is thought that the total cost of the scheme could be over £4m.