Councillors vote for pay freeze

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Councillors in Scotland have voted to freeze their pay, after a report out last week recommended an increase in their basic salary to reflect increased workloads.

But the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said an increase was not tenable in the current economic climate and members voted unanimously in favour of a pay freeze at a convention on Friday.

The vote to freeze councillors’ pay for the third consecutive year was taken in a private session which was not on the official agenda.  A COSLA insider told Newsnet that an announcement would be made shortly.  

Last week the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee stated in a report that the Government should “recognise the significant responsibilities of leaders and senior councillors”.  The report concluded that the basic salary of £16,234 didn’t reflect increases in workloads since bigger multi-member wards were introduced in Scotland in 2007 and recommended an increase to £18,916 as well as a raft of changes to councillors’ payments.

The Government advisors also urged the Scottish Government to ditch additional salary payments to councillors for serving on arm’s-length external organisations (Aleos), joint boards and community justice authorities.

Glasgow is the only council in Scotland to pay elected members for sitting on Aleos, a controversial practice which sees mostly members of the Labour-run Glasgow administration awarded top-up salaries of up to £20,000 a year.  Opposition councillors have called for the money to be redirected to frontline services.

Ian Livingstone, the committee’s chairman, said, “There are areas where we believe the Government should act sooner, namely remuneration to councillors serving on Aleos, councillors serving on joint boards and community justice authorities and councillors who are suspended from their duties.”

Tory MSP and local government spokesman Derek Brownlee said: “Now is the wrong time to increase the cost of politics.  If councillors want an increase in their pay they should first look at reducing councillor numbers or other measures that reduce the cost of local politics.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We will carefully consider all of the recommendations as it moves forward on these issues.  Of course, that will be in the context of the financial constraints we face across the public sector in Scotland as a result of substantial cuts in our budget from Westminster.”