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The Scottish local authorities remuneration committee was established to advise Scottish ministers on the payment by local authorities of remuneration and allowances to, and the reimbursement of expenses incurred by, local authority councillors. I understand that the committee last met in February 2012 and that it was stood down in February 2013.
Since 2017, councillors’ pay is increased annually in line with the percentage increase in the median annual earnings of public sector workers in Scotland. Councillors’ pay will rise by 2.2 per cent from 1 April 2020.
As a former councillor, I am well aware of the hard work undertaken by the majority of councillors around the country. Clearly, not all councillors receive the special responsibility allowance to top up their basic salaries, and full-time councillors on the basic level can sometimes struggle financially. I understand that this is a difficult ask in the current financial climate and I am aware of the 2.2 per cent increase, but will the cabinet secretary undertake to consider re-establishing SLARC with a view to bringing councillors’ basic salary up to a level that is fit for purpose? That would make the prospect of serving their local communities post-2022 more rewarding and worthwhile, and be in line with the effort that they put into the job.
I absolutely recognise that councillors the length and breadth of the country work exceptionally hard and are dedicated to improving their communities. The Scottish Government believes that everyone deserves to be fairly paid. In terms of that fair work, we were delighted to lay amendments to increase the flexibility available to local authorities when granting councillors paid leave of absence, which is important when encouraging councillors to take parental leave and encouraging other people to stand for council.
As I said in my previous response, since 2017, councillors’ pay has increased annually in line with the percentage increase in the median annual earnings of public sector workers in Scotland. I am happy to meet Angus MacDonald if he wants to discuss the matter further, to outline some of the work that we are doing to support our councillors and councils.