If you have any problem or query relating to your work as a councillor. If there is anything you think would make the job easier. If there is any help or support we could give you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
National Association of Councillors Northern Ireland Region Sketrick House Jubilee Road Newtownards BT23 4YH t: 028 9181 9413 e: office@nac-ni.org
Code of Conduct Insurance Following lobbying by the National Association of Councillors, all eleven councils have now arranged Code of Conduct insurance for councillors. This means the councils will pay any legal costs incurred in contesting Code of Conduct complaints, provided the councillor is subsequently found not to have breached the Code. If a breach is confirmed however, the councillor will have to reimburse the council.
Tax exemption on travel expenses Tax exemption for councillors’ travel expenses came into effect from April 2016. The exemption applies to both income tax and national insurance contributions. Please check with your Finance Department if you think the exemption is not being applied.
DCA carers – widened eligibility
The Department for Communities has agreed on a broader definition of eligibility for paid carers under the Dependants’ Carers’ Allowance. Previous guidelines stated that no family member is eligible to be a paid carer. New guidelines permit as paid carer any family member who does not normally live in the household and is not a parent/guardian of the dependent child. This means siblings, grandparents, non-resident childrenand other family members are now eligible. This change follows lobbying by the National Association of Councillors.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The NAC is the only organisation whose agenda is to represent councillors. It is the only all-party voice for elected members which makes it unique in the political world. We provide advice and signposting to councillors with individual problems relating to ethics, elections, role responsibilities, remuneration, tax, expenses, pension, welfare benefits and any other concerns that are raised. We work to resolve problems that councillors experience within their role, by bringing the details to the attention of the relevant bodies whilst ensuring confidentiality.
WHAT WE DO
To make representation on behalf of our members with the aim of achieving equality for all councillors across the Northern Ireland region To address matters that affect councillors’ well-being and provide appropriate information and advice accordingly To strive for adequate and appropriate training to be available for councillors to assist them with carrying out the role
2022 UPDATE
Councillor Equality In December 2021 the Department for Communities (DfC) Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA agreed that it is now timely for an independently led review of the councillor role, and the DfC departmental officials are currently putting a process in place to progress this. This is a positive step forward to addressing the problems and concerns raised by NAC members in relation to conducting the councillor role and follows requests made by the NAC Executive Committee (EC) over the past years to political parties and various government officials/departments. During 2020 and 2021, the NAC EC were given the opportunity to meet with Minister Hargey and her officials to present information on how councillors are affected by the inequality across council areas and government levels, the points put forward by the NAC included: The councillor role has not been re-evaluated for over seven years, and there have been many changes within council structures that have resulted in an increase to the responsibilities for councillors since the reform of local government in 2014, when the twenty-six councils were reduced to the eleven-council model. The councillor allowances and benefits scheme does not include any provision for long-term sickness, maternity/paternity leave, or severance pay whereas higher level government representatives and council staff remuneration packages do. The support services, resources, allowances, and mileage reimbursement provided by councils across Northern Ireland varies and therefore councillors do not avail of equal opportunities for conducting the role. In 2022 the NAC will continue to make representation on behalf of members to address these issues and work with the relevant departments towards getting the long-awaited review of the councillor role progressed. Councillor Well-being The NAC are aware of various difficulties that our members encounter whilst carrying out the councillor role and problems were elevated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Councillors, being the first of our 3-tier elected representation that the public turn to for assistance, were dealing with constituents on the everyday issues as well as those on the brink of poverty, employment concerns, mental health issues and families under extreme pressure. The public know their councillors and, in many, if not all cases our members continued to represent their constituents whilst dealing with their own personal circumstances. Unfortunately, we had cases during this pressure period whereby some of our elected colleagues were challenged with a noticeable increase of social media abuse. The abuse largely centred around many aspects of councils being unable to deliver normal services, either because of central government guidelines or, in some cases, for various reasons that some councils were operating with significantly less quota of staff. Even though the reasons were well documented and explained to the public, some, at times, simply didn’t want to accept this as being the case within the then current operations procedures in our councils. Throughout the pandemic the NAC circulated Newsletters with useful information and links in relation to the Coronavirus and thankfully we have managed to get through those difficult times. The NAC ask all members to continue to keep the officers informed of problems they are encountering so that experiences can be shared, and advice sought and circulated to help resolve issues and benefit all members. Councillor Training It is important for the NAC members to avail of on-going training for updating their knowledge and skills; and to be given regular access to courses and workshops relevant to the work they are carrying out. The NAC organise regular national conferences with workshops on topics relevant to councillors, during the pandemic these were suspended but resumed in October 2021, dates, locations and details are circulated to all NI region members and published on our website. The Local Government Training Group (LGTG) is currently responsible for the oversight and co-ordination of learning and development activities for which there is an identified common need throughout the local government service in NI. Over the past three years NAC representatives have participated in meetings in relation to a review process which is being carried out for the evolvement of the LGTG. In 2021 the NAC had input to a consultation process which was carried out by the independent consultancy iESE and the recommendations that they have put forward for a new training scheme are currently under consideration. The NAC will keep members updated on progress.
ACHIEVEMENTS
As a result of Councillors acting collectively for their common interests, we have managed to achieve major improvements to councillors’ pay and conditions, such as: Increases in Councillors’ allowances and faster payments Implementation of a pension scheme for Councillors Arranged for Councillors’ travel expenses to be exempt from Tax and National Insurance Represented Councillors’ interests during the local government reorganisation by the formation of an Independent Remuneration Panel with increased councillors’ allowances for the new councils Achieved severance payments for Councillors
We provide information on changes in legislation, revised allowances, government consultations and other matters affecting councillors. We offer a forum for councillors to voice opinions and concerns, and exchange information and experience through our bi-monthly members’ meetings. We communicate regularly with our members by sending out information emails, newsletters and keeping our website updated.
Prior to elected members becoming exempt from payment of Data Collection fees from the 1st April 2019, the NAC attempted to get all councils to reimburse GDPR fees that had been paid by their councillors. This campaign started in 2018 when we surveyed all councillors, at that time there were nine councils not reimbursing fees. Following letters sent by the NAC, the number of councils not reimbursing fees was reduced to five. Work on this campaign ceased when the new legislation came into force.
Reimbursement of GDPR Fees
t: 028 9181 9413 e: office@nac-ni.org
If you have any problem or query relating to your work as a councillor, if there is anything you think would make the job easier, if there is any help or support we could give you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
National Association of Councillors Northern Ireland Region Sketrick House Jubilee Road Newtownards BT23 4YH
Code of Conduct Insurance Following lobbying by the National Association of Councillors, all eleven councils have now arranged Code of Conduct insurance for councillors. This means the councils will pay any legal costs incurred in contesting Code of Conduct complaints, provided the councillor is subsequently found not to have breached the Code. If a breach is confirmed however, the councillor will have to reimburse the council.
Tax exemption on travel expenses Tax exemption for councillors’ travel expenses came into effect from April 2016. The exemption applies to both income tax and national insurance contributions. Please check with your Finance Department if you think the exemption is not being applied.
DCA carers – widened eligibility
The Department for Communities has agreed on a broader definition of eligibility for paid carers under the Dependants’ Carers’ Allowance. Previous guidelines stated that no family member is eligible to be a paid carer. New guidelines permit as paid carer any family member who does not normally live in the household and is not a parent/guardian of the dependent child. This means siblings, grandparents, non- resident children and other family members are now eligible. This change follows lobbying by the National Association of Councillors.
WHAT WE DO
Reimbursement of GDPR Fees Prior to elected members becoming exempt from payment of Data Collection fees from the 1st April 2019, the NAC attempted to get all councils to reimburse GDPR fees that had been paid by their councillors. This campaign started in 2018 when we surveyed all councillors, at that time there were nine councils not reimbursing fees. Following letters sent by the NAC, the number of councils not reimbursing fees was reduced to five. Work on this campaign ceased when the new legislation came into force.
The NAC is the only organisation whose agenda is to represent councillors. It is the only all-party voice for elected members which makes it unique in the political world. We provide advice and signposting to councillors with individual problems relating to ethics, elections, role responsibilities, remuneration, tax, expenses, pension, welfare benefits and any other concerns that are raised. We work to resolve problems that councillors experience within their role, by bringing the details to the attention of the relevant bodies whilst ensuring confidentiality. We provide information on changes in legislation, revised allowances, government consultations and other matters affecting councillors. We offer a forum for councillors to voice opinions and concerns, and exchange information and experience through our bi-monthly members’ meetings. We communicate regularly with our members by sending out information emails, newsletters and keeping our website updated.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
2022 UPDATE
ACHIEVEMENTS
As a result of Councillors acting collectively for their common interests, we have managed to achieve major improvements to councillors’ pay and conditions, such as: Increases in Councillors’ allowances and faster payments Implementation of a pension scheme for Councillors Arranged for Councillors’ travel expenses to be exempt from Tax and National Insurance Represented Councillors’ interests during the local government reorganisation by the formation of an Independent Remuneration Panel with increased councillors’ allowances for the new councils Achieved severance payments for Councillors
t: 028 9181 9413 e: office@nac-ni.org
To make representation on behalf of our members with the aim of achieving equality for all councillors across the Northern Ireland region To address matters that affect councillors’ well-being and provide appropriate information and advice accordingly To strive for adequate and appropriate training to be available for councillors to assist them with carrying out the role
Councillor Equality In December 2021 the Department for Communities (DfC) Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA agreed that it is now timely for an independently led review of the councillor role, and the DfC departmental officials are currently putting a process in place to progress this. This is a positive step forward to addressing the problems and concerns raised by NAC members in relation to conducting the councillor role and follows requests made by the NAC Executive Committee (EC) over the past years to political parties and various government officials/departments. During 2020 and 2021, the NAC EC were given the opportunity to meet with Minister Hargey and her officials to present information on how councillors are affected by the inequality across council areas and government levels, the points put forward by the NAC included: The councillor role has not been re- evaluated for over seven years, and there have been many changes within council structures that have resulted in an increase to the responsibilities for councillors since the reform of local government in 2014, when the twenty-six councils were reduced to the eleven-council model. The councillor allowances and benefits scheme does not include any provision for long-term sickness, maternity/paternity leave, or severance pay whereas higher level government representatives and council staff remuneration packages do. The support services, resources, allowances, and mileage reimbursement provided by councils across Northern Ireland varies and therefore councillors do not avail of equal opportunities for conducting the role. In 2022 the NAC will continue to make representation on behalf of members to address these issues and work with the relevant departments towards getting the long-awaited review of the councillor role progressed.
Councillor Well-being The NAC are aware of various difficulties that our members encounter whilst carrying out the councillor role and problems were elevated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Councillors, being the first of our 3-tier elected representation that the public turn to for assistance, were dealing with constituents on the everyday issues as well as those on the brink of poverty, employment concerns, mental health issues and families under extreme pressure. The public know their councillors and, in many, if not all cases our members continued to represent their constituents whilst dealing with their own personal circumstances. Unfortunately, we had cases during this pressure period whereby some of our elected colleagues were challenged with a noticeable increase of social media abuse. The abuse largely centred around many aspects of councils being unable to deliver normal services, either because of central government guidelines or, in some cases, for various reasons that some councils were operating with significantly less quota of staff. Even though the reasons were well documented and explained to the public, some, at times, simply didn’t want to accept this as being the case within the then current operations procedures in our councils. Throughout the pandemic the NAC circulated Newsletters with useful information and links in relation to the Coronavirus and thankfully we have managed to get through those difficult times. The NAC ask all members to continue to keep the officers informed of problems they are encountering so that experiences can be shared, and advice sought and circulated to help resolve issues and benefit all members.
Councillor Training It is important for the NAC members to avail of on-going training for updating their knowledge and skills; and to be given regular access to courses and workshops relevant to the work they are carrying out. The NAC organise regular national conferences with workshops on topics relevant to councillors, during the pandemic these were suspended but resumed in October 2021, dates, locations and details are circulated to all NI region members and published on our website. The Local Government Training Group (LGTG) is currently responsible for the oversight and co- ordination of learning and development activities for which there is an identified common need throughout the local government service in NI. Over the past three years NAC representatives have participated in meetings in relation to a review process which is being carried out for the evolvement of the LGTG. In 2021 the NAC had input to a consultation process which was carried out by the independent consultancy iESE and the recommendations that they have put forward for a new training scheme are currently under consideration. The NAC will keep members updated on progress.