Edinburgh councillors pay rise to be approved

Council leader Andrew Burns. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
Council leader Andrew Burns. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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COUNCILLORS are in line for a two per cent pay rise despite a continuing squeeze on local authority budgets and employees’ wages.

The salaries of local politicians across Scotland have been frozen since 2009.

But new regulations set to be approved by MSPs today will increase the basic salary for councillors from the current £16,234 to £16,560.

City council leader Andrew Burns will see his pay rise from the current £48,704 to £49,191 for this financial year and £49,683 from April.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson’s salary as civic head will increase from £36,528 to £36,893 and then £37,262.

The Scottish Government said the move followed representations from the councils’ umbrella body Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local 

But Councillor Burns said he was not aware of pressure from elected members for any kind of pay rise.

He said the council’s draft budget included a proposal for a one per cent increase for employees, as negotiated by Cosla.

However, he said the basic councillors’ salary and those of council leader and civic head were all fixed by the Scottish Parliament and councils were given no choice in the matter.

He said: “We don’t have any discretion on this. I don’t sense any demand for an increase in individual salaries in the current climate.

“It may come as a surprise to many people just how low the basic salary for councillors is, but even so I don’t think anyone is agitating for a rise.”

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of local government union Unison, said the councillors’ rise was in line with the one which the council was imposing on its workers – one per cent this year and one per cent next.

But he said: “Unison has taken the position that we are still going to attempt to
reopen negotiations and lodge a claim for 2014.

“Local government workers have had a real cut of about 13 per cent over the past few years because their wages have either been frozen or they have had a rise of one per cent.”

He said it had been calculated that by the middle of this year the average council worker would be £1600 a year worse off than in 2010.

And he said Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of more austerity added to their concerns.

“With a further £25 billion in cuts, you wonder how you stimulate the economy when no-one has anything to spend.

“For every £1 public service workers earn, they spend 60 or 70p in their local economy, so if that is not going into the local economy, the local economy is not recovering.”

Councillors have been paid a salary since 2007. In addition to the basic pay and the amounts set for council leader and civic head, local authorities have the discretion to make responsibility payments to committee conveners, vice-conveners and others up to a fixed maximum. In Edinburgh, the total budget for payments to councillors is set at a maximum of £633,144.

Explaining the councillors’ rise, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Following representation from councillors and Cosla, ministers took the decision to end the
period of pay restraint and have awarded what they consider is a fair award in the current financial climate.”