The €114,200 question
It's that time of year again when we're between the national Budget and Christmas and the Cork City Council budget meeting rolls around. As long as I've been in this job, the local Budget has involved cutbacks to services, maintenance and front line Council staff.
It has involved people who won't get a new boiler or their windows fixed next year, or people like Chloe O'Reilly who desperately needs facilities to allow her the most basic functions of life, like being able to stand up straight at home or do her homework at a table she can sit at.
Many aspects of Council budget cuts come from central government, and there is little councillors can do about them. However, not all aspects of the Council budget are a) dictated by central government or b) changing.
It has always featured the most cosmetic of changes to the perks and privileges of Councillors.
The majority of politicians work hard. Some work extremely hard, and treat what is meant to be a part-time job with more gusto and dedication than many people with full-time jobs.
And they are well paid for what is a part-time job. What with conferences and expenses, most Councillors come out with something just under the average industrial wage.
Don't get me wrong. It's a job I wouldn't do for the world. I could not be listening to complaints all day and I value my privacy - I don't want to be asked about potholes or streetlights or the troika every time I go to buy milk. Very few of us would be able for that kind of constant badgering.
Being Lord Mayor means a lot of extra time put into the job. It's more than full time. It involves appearing at all kinds of events, cutting ribbons, kissing babies, visiting nursing homes and officiating over everything under the sun from the Queen's visit to the opening of a sewer.
It also means, however, having a place in history; being treated like a VIP; your own car and driver; and €114,200 into your hand (before tax, but not including what you already get for being a councillor, around €21,000 all in).
And this is where the problem is.
Being Lord Mayor is a full time job, yes. It's a tough job, you might even acknowledge.
But not as tough, probably, as filling potholes in the cold or collecting rubbish in the rain.
This week, the majority of Cork City Councillors voted to keep the Lord Mayor's salary at €114,200. Few councillors, in the voting pact at least, will vote to cut the Lord Mayor's package - it could be them next year, and why would a turkey vote for Christmas? If you're hoping your granny can get a wheelchair ramp put in her house, you can probably forget about it - the disabled persons grant is cut by €400,000. If your car creaks ominously every time you pass that pothole that lost you a tyre, it can keep creaking. There's no money for resurfacing estates. If you're one of the Council workers who will lose their job next year, my condolences. At least you can rest in the knowledge that the Lord Mayor, whoever it will be next year, will be well looked after while you join the dole queue.
There's a temptation for people to portray beneficiaries of Council funding as scroungers, who should get off their backsides and find a house or a job or whatever. And we all know a few scroungers.
But the vast majority of us work hard and are entitled to expect safe, clean streets and basic levels of civic maintenance. Or are we? That's the €114,200 question.