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Highland Council set to agree senior councillors’ salaries following national pay rise with hike on the cards

By Gregor White

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Councillors are set to consider pay levels for its senior members.
Councillors are set to consider pay levels for its senior members.

The cost of Highland Council’s most senior members looks set to increase by 15 per cent.

Agenda papers for the council’s meeting tomorrow set out proposals for the remuneration of senior councillors.

The bill comes to £460,923, compared to £399,980 in 2017.

Once the salaries of all 74 members are factored in, the total salaries cost the public more than £1.5 million.

The majority of the increase is down to pay awards which are set at a national level.

Under the Local Governance (Scotland) Act, councils are placed in four bands with different salaries in each.

Highland Council is in Band C and can have a leader, civic head (convener) and up to 19 further senior councillors.

The maximum total pay for senior councillors in Band C (excluding the leader and civic head) is £511,316.

For this financial year, the leader attracts a salary of £45,669 and the convener £34,254.

This is up from £39,418 and £29,624, respectively, in 2017.

The basic salary for a councillor is now £19,571.

However, Highland Council can decide itself how much to pay for other senior roles.

In the last political term, the leader of the opposition was paid £25,474 and the chairperson of a strategic committee got the same.

The council also paid some strategic vice-chairs and the leaders of its 10 area committees.

This year, the council is proposing an 18 per cent pay increase for the opposition leader and an uplift of 10 per cent for the chairs of its strategic committees.

It also suggests creating two new posts for senior strategic chairs, at a cost of £30,000 each. The strategic chairs would have pan-Highland responsibilities in addition to their area roles.

Highland Council appears to be offsetting the cost of these pay rises by cutting the salaries of its area chairs.

In a move that is likely to prove controversial, the council is suggesting a salary of £25,000 for the Inverness chairperson.

The person appointed to lead every other area committee in Highland will receive a basic councillor salary.

This may prompt debate as to the council’s commitment to localism and devolved power.

Members will discuss and vote on the proposed pay package at their meeting tomorrow.

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