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Golden Goodbye Payments

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 18th November 2004.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 2:00 pm, 18th November 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it is considering golden goodbye payments to encourage councillors to stand down at the next election. (S2O-4079)

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, which was passed by the Parliament in June, includes a number of measures aimed at widening access to council membership, including the introduction of a severance scheme for councillors who choose to stand down at the next election.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Is the minister aware of the public anger at the suggestion that there will be pay-offs of up to £30,000 for retiring councillors? Is not the proposal a bribe of taxpayers' money for superannuated Labour councillors, to buy off their opposition to the introduction of the single transferable vote?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The first thing to stress is that the Parliament has accepted the principle of one-off severance arrangements for councillors as we enter a radically different era for local government. There is a direct link between the principle of one-off severance payments and that of widening access to local government. That is why, early in the new year, we will publish the councillors remuneration progress group's report along with the widening access progress group's report.

It is not for me to comment on any of the exaggerated media reports or even to respond to the exaggerated rhetoric that Mr Fraser chooses to indulge in. I can understand why he would want to indulge in that language here; I seem to recall very similar words in some recent exaggerated media reports, but that is probably because Mr Fraser and his colleagues were at least in part responsible for them.

A principle is involved. If the Conservatives are so concerned about one-off severance payments, I look forward to hearing an assurance that no Conservative councillor in Scotland will accept any payment.