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
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.
CURRENT AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
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.
WHAT WE DO
To progress a review of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct To address matters that are affecting councillors’ well-being and strive for line-of-work equality To ensure that councillors receive adequate and appropriate training
CAMPAIGNS UPDATE 2020
Councillors Code of Conduct Review Over the past years the NAC has been acting on behalf of our members to progress the review of the Councillors Code of Conduct. During this time NAC officers have been in communication, and met with officials from the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards’ office, to highlight problems that have been encountered by councillors, whilst operating under the code in its current form. Councillors have been working under the Code of Conduct since 2014 but want to have a revised code implemented based on the changes documented by a departmental consultation. MLA’s operate under a revised Code of Conduct which was approved by the Assembly in June 2015 and, at that time, both the Assembly and Local Government were of the view that there should be as much consistency as possible between the two codes, and that ultimately these codes should be aligned, to build public and elected member understanding of the requirements placed on MLAs and councillors. However, the revised Councillors Code cannot be issued until a draft is laid before and approved by a resolution of the Assembly, which has been delayed due to the three-year suspension. The DfC Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA has informed the NAC that she is considering responses in relation to the consultation on the review of the Councillors Code and that following consideration and approval she expects to be able to initiate the Assembly process in due course.
Councillor Well-being and Equality Since the reform of local government in 2014 when the 26 councils were reduced to the 11-council model there has been many changes within council structures that have resulted in an increase to the responsibilities for local government elected members. However, during this time the councillor role has not been re-evaluated. The NAC Executive Committee are currently considering many concerns raised by our members in relation to various difficulties that they have experienced whilst carrying out the councillor role and how inequality across council areas and government affects them. The support services and resources provided by councils vary and therefore councillors do not have equal opportunities available to assist them when carrying out their role, and the allowances and benefits scheme for councillors has not been reviewed in line with changes, whereas MLA’s remuneration packages have been. In January 2020 we had a meeting with the SOLACE Chair, David Jackson and Vice Chair, Stephen Reid and the issues of concern for our members were raised and discussed. Mr Jackson and Mr Reid agreed that these matters would be tabled at the SOLACE February 2020 meeting and following that, feedback would be provided. In February 2020 we requested a meeting with the DfC Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA to highlight our members’ concerns. We have been advised that it has not been possible to respond due to the volume of requests received to date and that they hope to be able to respond soon.
Councillor Training Over the past two years NAC representatives have been involved in meetings in relation to a review process which is being carried out for the evolvement of the Local Government Training Group (LGTG). The 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. 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. Therefore, we are pleased to have been advised that the NAC’s input will be included in a consultation process which is to be carried out by an independent consultancy from which recommendations will be put forward for a new training scheme.
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
National Association of Councillors Northern Ireland Region
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.
CURRENT AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
To progress a review of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct To address matters that are affecting councillors’ well-being and strive for line- of-work equality To ensure that councillors receive adequate and appropriate training
CAMPAIGNS UPDATE 2020
Councillors Code of Conduct Review Over the past years the NAC has been acting on behalf of our members to progress the review of the Councillors Code of Conduct. During this time NAC officers have been in communication, and met with officials from the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards’ office, to highlight problems that have been encountered by councillors, whilst operating under the code in its current form. Councillors have been working under the Code of Conduct since 2014 but want to have a revised code implemented based on the changes documented by a departmental consultation. MLA’s operate under a revised Code of Conduct which was approved by the Assembly in June 2015 and, at that time, both the Assembly and Local Government were of the view that there should be as much consistency as possible between the two codes, and that ultimately these codes should be aligned, to build public and elected member understanding of the requirements placed on MLAs and councillors. However, the revised Councillors Code cannot be issued until a draft is laid before and approved by a resolution of the Assembly, which has been delayed due to the three-year suspension. The DfC Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA has informed the NAC that she is considering responses in relation to the consultation on the review of the Councillors Code and that following consideration and approval she expects to be able to initiate the Assembly process in due course.
Councillor Well-being and Equality Since the reform of local government in 2014 when the 26 councils were reduced to the 11-council model there has been many changes within council structures that have resulted in an increase to the responsibilities for local government elected members. However, during this time the councillor role has not been re- evaluated. The NAC Executive Committee are currently considering many concerns raised by our members in relation to various difficulties that they have experienced whilst carrying out the councillor role and how inequality across council areas and government affects them. The support services and resources provided by councils vary and therefore councillors do not have equal opportunities available to assist them when carrying out their role, and the allowances and benefits scheme for councillors has not been reviewed in line with changes, whereas MLA’s remuneration packages have been. In January 2020 we had a meeting with the SOLACE Chair, David Jackson and Vice Chair, Stephen Reid and the issues of concern for our members were raised and discussed. Mr Jackson and Mr Reid agreed that these matters would be tabled at the SOLACE February 2020 meeting and following that, feedback would be provided. In February 2020 we requested a meeting with the DfC Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA to highlight our members’ concerns. We have been advised that it has not been possible to respond due to the volume of requests received to date and that they hope to be able to respond soon.
ACHIEVEMENTS
Councillor Training Over the past two years NAC representatives have been involved in meetings in relation to a review process which is being carried out for the evolvement of the Local Government Training Group (LGTG). The 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. 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. Therefore, we are pleased to have been advised that the NAC’s input will be included in a consultation process which is to be carried out by an independent consultancy from which recommendations will be put forward for a new training scheme.
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