PAY restoration, pensions and long service rewards will see Donegal County Council’s wages bill leap by more than €5 million next year.
According to the local authority’s budget book the total payroll cost for cost for 2022 will be €79.6 million, up considerably on this year’s €74.5 million.
Not all of the money will come directly from Council coffers however. Almost €11 million is recoupable from Irish Water while a further amount is provided by central government. The net rise on Donegal Council’s part once those numbers are factored in will be €2.45 million.
The hike, which by the Council’s own admission is still “substantial”, will be outlined to elected members when they meet on today.
They will be told of a number of reasons for the sharp increase, among them the ongoing gradual restoration of pay to local authority staff.
Following the economic downturn, the government introduced its Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Acts which resulted in the public sector taking a reduction in pay and changes to pensions and conditions.
In 2016 the process of reversing those cuts began and year on year since then central government has been providing local authorities with the finances needed to restore the pay of their workforce.
More recently a new pay deal, ‘Building Momentum – A New Public Service Agreement’ has been implemented. Struck earlier this year, Building Momentum will deliver pay rises of up to three per-cent over two years and will continue to reverse cuts and additional hours imposed during the financial crisis.
According to Donegal County Council, its workforce plan is also playing a significant role in its wages bill increase.
In 2009 the local authority employed around 1,250 staff but by 2014 that had been slashed to fewer than 860.Following lengthy discussions with trade unions the workforce plan was agreed. It has enabled the hiring of additional staff as well as revised pay grades.
Another reason the council’s payroll will be €5 million higher in 2022 is pension payments. In 2021 the pensions of council staff amounted to €7.3 million, next year it will be €7.6 million. Added to that is a budget for ‘gratuities’ – payments made after long service.
In 2021 Donegal County Council paid out €1.87 million in gratuities, that will dip slightly to €1.86 million in 2022.
Payroll costs have risen annually since 2015 but the latest hike will be by far the highest recorded. Figures show that next year’s wages bill will be €18 million more than it was six years ago.
According to the author of the new budget document, “The overall payroll budget for 2022 shows a substantial increase, driven variously by the implementation of the organisation’s workforce plan, both indoor and outdoor, and reflecting both additional numbers and revised grading structures, in addition to the aforementioned national agreements on public service pay.”