Friday, 18 December 2020
Appropriation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I thank the Minister of State for his generous offer to discuss the issues relating to Galway, which I will certainly take him up on. I also concur with Senator Casey's point that many people think councillors have already received pay increases because they have been announced a number of times. A number of councillors have told me that people have said to them that councillors have received X amount over the recent period when they have not. It is time to make a decision on this very important issue.Councillors' pay is pretty much what it was when I entered a local authority in 2004 so it needs to be addressed. Successive Governments have been afraid to do anything that benefits politicians because politicians are almost regarded as bad people now. There seems to be a view that one could not possibly do anything for them, even though they have difficult jobs and do difficult work across the Houses of the Oireachtas and in local authorities. This view is regrettable because elected public representatives and other public servants have noble professions that we need to encourage people to embrace. If we did not have democracy, people who guard democracy and people who run for election, where would we be?
We have heard about many working from home during the pandemic. They have been doing so out of necessity but there has been a move across all Departments and agencies to encourage working from home anyway. Has there been any feedback from Departments on how it has worked? Obviously, it has benefited many people. What is the view of assistant secretaries and Secretaries General of Departments? Do they regard working from home as positive or are there drawbacks and limitations? It is worth having a review in each Department to determine whether it could be promoted. We are aware of its benefits in terms of reducing commuting times, the carbon footprint and pressure on roads and public transport, where it is available. I do not like asking whether working from home has improved efficiency but is it at least comparable with working in Departments or State agencies in normal times?