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SNP members question salary of new education boss when the council is in debt

By Ali Morrison

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Maxine Smith
Maxine Smith

The SNP opposition on the Highland Council are questioning the precise position of the council’s debt.

Joint SNP leader, cllr Ian Cockburn, said today: “The administration have been announcing with great verbosity that it will be in debt this year from somewhere in the region of £47 million to £98 million due to Covid 19, some 4.5 times more than any other local authority in Scotland.

"We now have been advised of a new figure of £32 million. There is no doubt that due to the pandemic there will be added costs to try to recover but we need to see the ‘workings out’.”

Following on from this, co-leader, cllr Maxine Smith said: “The administration in Highland Council will have a tough time persuading the public and government that the council is short of money when they are about to spend £250,000 on a wage for a new education consultant. The Gold team that met during the pandemic – of which we were part – heard from the administation and officers that it was impossible to recruit for the education post during a pandemic. They were desperate for an education leader, so it was agreed that they would seek a consultant. After that we heard nothing until we were advised after the fact that someone had been appointed at such high cost We were in shock, along with the rest of the councillors and the public.”

Cllr Cockburn continued: “It is therefore prudent that in a bad economic situation you do not compound it with what can only be described as very poor judgement by the council administration leaders at this time by paying over the odds by a factor of 100 per cent for a temporary (one year) executive chief officer for education, even though that position needed filling."

Cllr Smith said: “The post had been vacant well before Covid-19 hit, which left the education department rudderless; it is beyond comprehension that the council leaders would think it is acceptable to pay out such huge sums when it is complaining that its coffers are empty. The SNP group will be seeking a full discussion on this matter at the next full council.”

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