A Fine Gael politician who earned and spent over €60,000 last year and spent three holidays abroad this year also received the taxpayer-funded Housing Authority payment for his two-bedroom flat in south Dublin.
Councilor Brian Lawlor, who is said to have just returned from a three-week holiday in Australia, declined to comment on the matter, saying “don’t ever call me again” when asked for comment.
The Fine Gael politician, who sits on South Dublin County Council’s strategic housing committee, which advises the council on its housing policy, is said to have received the HAP payment for several years despite his high income.
Sources said he paid around £50 a week to rent the flat at Beechdale Court in Ballycullen last year, with the rest being subsidized by taxpayers through HAP.
An adjoining two bedroom apartment in the same complex was offered for sale last month for €1,437.
Cllr Lawlor, 53, is understood to have received HAP for a number of years up to and including this year, but declined to answer if he was still on the program this week.
Publicly available data on the SDCC website shows that Cllr Lawlor received payments of €39,911.11 last year from his work as a councillor. Approximately €7,130.48 of this figure was proven expenses, training expenses and conference attendance expenses claimed by Cllr Lawlor, all of which were tax free.
The remaining €32,780.63 consisted of his monthly allowance, representative payments, area committee payments and a tax-free payment of €7,500 for chairing a strategic policy committee.
Some of the allowances paid to Council members are tax free – so it is understood that only around €24,000 of the €39,911.11 was taxable income.
He also works part-time as a driver at Dublin Bus and is said to earn between €20,000 and €25,000 a year, bringing his total earnings to over €60,000 last year, or around €53,000 when the certified expenses claimed by the council are discounted. His net pay would be higher than others with that number because of the tax-free payments he received from the council.
A CSO report released in 2019 said the median income for people in the HAP program in the previous year was €13,816 nationally and €15,550 in South Dublin County Council – a fraction of Cllr Lawlor’s income.
Cllr Lawlor was contacted this week to say he has been in the HAP program for the last few years and his income last year was over €60,000. When we asked him if he thought his income was a little high for a taxpayer grant recipient, he replied, “I can’t comment on that… so please contact my attorney.”
When it was pointed out that his community earnings were publicly available on the SDCC website, he reiterated that he could not comment.
After asking several times, he said, “Don’t ever call me again.”
In 2020, Cllr Lawlor received €33,268.32 in payments from the council. He received €34,094.95 in 2019, €34,573.98 in 2018 and €29,108.62 in 2017. He also received a salary from Dublin Bus, estimated to be around €20,000 a year, on top of his council payments and is said to have received HAP during those years.
Sources said Cllr Lawlor has enjoyed a number of holidays abroad this year, including two trips to Spain and his recent nearly three-week trip to Australia with his partner Emer Higgins, who is a Fine Gael TD and owns her own estate in Lucan. Dublin.
SDCC spent €72 million on rental subsidies in 2019, €81 million in 2020 and €95 million last year. Spending of over 100 million euros is planned for this year.
A number of Cllr Lawlor’s SDCC council colleagues have been vocal in criticizing the HAP program, saying it puts more pressure on the rental sector and arguing the state is far better off building public housing than giving money to landlords.
During a council meeting in 2018, Cllr Dermot Looney said HAP payments for the area would cover the construction of hundreds of public housing units, while Cllr Ruth Nolan said HAP was a “complete and utter burden on the state.”
At the meeting, Emer Higgins, who was a council member at the time, argued that HAP was “not a government subsidy to private landlords” while Cllr Lawlor said the number of people on HAP in the SDCC area is so high because of the low differential rent of 10 percent.
South Dublin County Council was contacted to ask if it was common for people with an income as high as Cllr Lawlor to receive HAP and how many people with annual incomes over €50,000 received HAP in the council area.
They said: “Assistance through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is available to households that have been assessed and approved by the Council for Social Housing Assistance.
“When such households receive housing through the HAP program, their rent is assessed based on current household income, similar to standard public housing renters.
“Any changes in household income (increases or decreases) must be reported to the Council in order for the rent contribution to be recalculated, but once approved general continued eligibility for the scheme will not be affected by changes in household income. The national HAP Shared Service, run by Limerick City and County Council on behalf of all local authorities, is responsible for making all payments to landlords under HAP and collecting weekly rent from all HAP tenants.”
Cllr Lawlor made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed he had appeared in a number of Scientology promotional videos, although in the past he was a vocal critic of the controversial group when they opened a major community center in his constituency.
Cllr Lawlor has been involved in a number of community projects with Scientologists and has appeared in official Scientology videos promoting their work.
He even wore Scientology branded apparel while posing for publicity photos with the group while Scientologists wore hi-vis jackets to promote Cllr Lawlor.
When asked for comment at the time, he told a newspaper that he did not support the group and described it as a cult. He said he would ask her not to feature him in any more videos.
Former Scientologist Pete Griffiths, who is now a vocal critic of the organization, said the group uses Cllr Lawlor in videos to give their group legitimacy with local people.
“Cllr Lawlor was acting like a stooge and they used him as a stooge without or without his knowledge,” he said. “They use his credibility to give them credibility in the eyes of the public. I used to run a Scientology organization, so I know that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/fine-gael-councillor-who-earned-60000-last-year-gets-hap-for-his-two-bedroom-apartment-41944832.html Fine Gael councilor who made €60,000 last year gets HAP for his two bedroom flat