Sunday, 28 May 2017

Worth every penny, no doubt!

DOUG COLLIE on the latest councillors' salaries and expenses at SBC

Council taxpayers and other electors in the Scottish Borders will be interested to know that it again cost a shade over three-quarters of a million pounds to cover salaries and expense claims of their 34 elected representatives during 2016/17.

Figures just posted on Scottish Borders Council's website reveal a wage bill of £675,468 for the last financial year together with combined expense claims of £97,506.

The overall bill for keeping the authority's councillors in post was slightly down on 2015/16, thanks to a small decrease in expenses claimed. The grand total for 2015/16 was £778,149 with £109,369 of that attributable to travel and other costs. Salaries in that year accounted for £668,780.

Council leader David Parker, who was replaced following this month's local government elections by 'rookie' councillor Shona Haslam, was the top earner with a salary of £33,789 and expenses (£1,207) totalling £34,996.

From May 4th this year the leader's salary was fixed at £33,857 while the remuneration for Councillor Parker in his new role as council convener will be £25,392.

A report submitted to a special meeting of the new authority confirmed that senior councillors, including those who sit on the powerful executive, and who have "a complex, cross service responsibility" will be entitled to £22,240.

Those with a smaller role in the council hierarchy will be paid £18,450 while back-benchers with no special status will have a 'basic' salary of £16,927. A total of 14 elected members will be entitled to one or other of the enhanced rates of pay.

It is worthy of note that the Newtown St Boswells 'wage bill' for councillors has increased - albeit slightly - in each of the last four financial years despite cuts to services, a significant number of redundancies and reductions in the grants from central government.

The four annual totals are: 2013/14 £648,566; 2014/15 £659,844; 2015/16 £668,750; 2016/17 £675,468. And the bill is set to rise yet again in 2017/18 with a budget of  £682,225 set for salaries this time round. The cost of senior councillors is given as £296,200.

The report on the salary structure from council chief executive Tracey Logan says: "No detailed guidance is provided by the Regulations about the duties of the Senior Councillors who are remunerated under the Scheme, or to the structure within which they operate.

"However, remuneration of Members is recognition of the significance of the duties they have to fulfil, and is also designed to remove the financial obstacles that might otherwise deter people from seeking election. The roles of Senior Councillors have been assessed on the basis of Size/breadth of responsibility, Complexity, and Impact The recommended pay rates have been reached by considering the statutory constraints and the ranking of the roles and their relative responsibilities."

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