SBC hits back at pay accusation

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A WAR of words has broken out between Scottish Borders Council and the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) over claims that this region has some of the highest paid councillors in the UK, writes Mark Entwistle.

The row erupted after TPA claimed recent figures showing that the basic allowance paid to Borders councillors was £16,932, meant they were among the highest paid in the country.

TPA chief executive Matthew Sinclair said that with local authorities having to rein in spending and many public sector staff facing a pay freeze, those councillors who have awarded themselves an increase in their allowances in defiance of government advice should hang their heads in shame.

“They cannot retain the moral authority to make tough decisions on council spending if they believe their own allowances should be immune,” said Mr Sinclair in a statement on the TPA website.

“Many taxpayers will be surprised at how much the amount paid varies from one council to the next. Local people should be able to see how much cash their councillors are taking in allowances and compare the cost with nearby councils. This kind of transparency will allow them to decide for themselves whether they are getting good value for money.”

But SBC responded, claiming the TPA press release detailing the allowance levels was inaccurate.

Chief executive Tracey Logan explained: “I would like to reassure our residents that councillors are paid the same basic allowance as all other local authorities.

“There has been no increase to councillors’ salaries during 2011/12.

“The last increase was from April 1, 2009 and this is in accordance with the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 (Remuneration) Amendment Regulations 2008.

“As a result, the annual amount payable to each councillor remained £16,234 per annum in 2011/12, and we are not the highest paying council in the country.

“The figures obtained by Tax Payers Alliance differ to that of other councils due to the fact that [SBC] changed the monthly pay date for all non-teaching staff and councillors from 15th of the month to the end of the month during 2011/12. This resulted in 12 and a half months’ salary being paid during the financial year rather than 12.”