A NEW row has broken out over payments to councillors, with Edinburgh’s SNP-Labour coalition reluctant to agree special responsibility allowances for conveners of the city’s new locality committees, one of whom is from an opposition party.
The administration came under fire last year after insisting £7000-a-year payments should be made to four of their own number appointed as “senior councillors” to set up the new committees. The Tories claimed they chaired just one meeting each in six months.
The coalition intended the four to go on to become the committee conveners, but the council agreed each committee should choose its own convener – and one elected a Lib Dem.
Now the administration has vetoed a move to transfer the allowances to the new conveners. Instead a report is due to be brought back to the next full council meeting.
Tory councillor Jason Rust said the coalition’s attitude over the allowances would raise questions. He said: “At the June full council there was a clear commitment about the importance of locality committees and a definite principle was established that the council would recognise locality committees on a par with other committees. Part of that was the payment for conveners of these committees.
“It was recognised they would have quite a significant workload.
“The senior councillor appointments, which were unprecedented at the time, were awarded an additional allowance as quasi-conveners. It would follow naturally that locality conveners would be paid an allowance and that was pretty much agreed.”
Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said it was “troubling” the administration did not accept the conveners should be paid an SRA. “These were supposed to be important committees that sat on the same basis as other committees. I would be concerned if there was any attempt to row back from that,” he said
But council leader Adam McVey claimed the three conveners from the coalition parties – Maureen Child (North East), Mandy Watt (South East) and Denis Dixon (South West) – did not want an allowance for that role and Lib Dem Robert Aldridge (North West) would not be able to take one because he already received a payment as Lib Dem group leader.
He said: “Originally we were thinking this would be the administration implementing and being held to account for local services and functions which were transferred.
“But now it’s going to be more collaborative, where party silos are broken down and people band together for the community rather than two tribes of the administration and other parties.
“We want to look at whether SRAs are appropriate for locality committees under that collaborative model – I don’t think they are.
“There may well be other positions where we would be better to get people to commit a bit more time.”