Questions over £7000 payments to four Edinburgh councillors

Edinburgh City Chambers on the Royal Mile
Edinburgh City Chambers on the Royal Mile
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CITY leaders were under fire today for paying £7000-a-year special allowances to four senior councillors for chairing just one meeting each over the past six months.

The politicians were appointed in June to lead working groups preparing the way for new locality committees which will see some powers devolved from the City Chambers to local areas.

But the Tories claim the working groups have each met only once. And at today’s meeting of the full council they will bid to strip the four councillors of their special payments.

The leader of the Conservative group on the council, Iain Whyte, said: “There has been one meeting of each of the working groups which these councillors chaired and another meeting when all four came together, which was chaired by culture and communities convener Donald Wilson.

“I do wonder what these four councillors have been up to.”

The four councillors – the SNP’s George Gordon and Denis Dixon and Labour’s Maureen Child and Mandy Watt – were appointed to lead the working groups for the North West, South West, North East and South East localities soon after the SNP-Labour coalition was formed in the wake of the local elections.

They are being paid £24,121 a year, compared with the basic councillors’ salary of £16,927 including a special responsibility allowance of £7194.

It is understood they will have received around half of that amount for the six months since they were appointed.

Conservative group chair Councillor Jason Rust said: “There will be some public surprise to say the least, that at a time when the administration is consulting on cuts, funds can be found to pay senior councillor allowances for chairing working groups which have barely met over a five-month period.

“The priorities of this administration seem skewed to ensuring jobs for themselves and without thought to proper local engagement, accountability and scrutiny.”

A report to today’s council meeting says the four locality committees should have their first meetings in December.

They will each be made up of all the councillors representing the wards in that locality.

It has already been agreed, against the wishes of the administration, that the committees will appoint their own conveners, though the report suggests they should normally only serve for one year.

Council leader Adam McVey insisted the appointment of the four councillors was “good value for money”.

He said: “I’m not sure exactly how often the working groups have met, but these four councillors have been able to work with officers, get things organised, drive things forward and get results quicker than if there was no-one there to do that.

“I’m confident we’ll have first meetings of each of the locality committees before the end of the year and that will be mainly thanks to their efforts.”