Ex-member calls for remuneration review

A former Borders councillor has claimed that some members are mainly in the job for the money, not to help their communities.

John Paton-Day, who recently lost out in the Melrose and Leaderdale by-election, has vowed to keep up the pressure on councillors.

He said: “I think it is wrong for a councillor to have a part-time or full -time job and yet still receive a full councillor’s salary, especially when the average wage in the Borders is not a lot more than £14,000 a year for a full week’s work in one job.

“We live in difficult times and those that represent us both on a local level and nationally should be aware of life on the ground. It is unacceptable that they should consider themselves a special case or feel they do not need to answer to the community.”

He added: “For a councillor to receive their salary they only have to attend two council meetings a year, this is plainly grossly unfair to any working person, and must be tightened up.

“I am not suggesting that every councillor is there for reasons other than the community, but there are some.”

Mr Paton-Day has called for the remuneration of councillors to be examined, with the public allowed to have their say on the matter.

“There needs to be more transparency about how much work councillors are doing,” he added.

This week, members’ expenses were published by the council in a report to be discussed by the full council this week.

It revealed that there was no change in the members’ salary in 2012/13, remaining at £16,234.

On a like-for-like basis, there was a £2,682 reduction in the total salary and expenses cost to the taxpayer compared to 2011/12. In total it was almost £750,000.

Outside the two councillors with the highest salaries, leader David Parker and convenor Graham Garvie, Councillor Donald Moffat took home the most money.

In 2012/13 he was paid £21,335, as well as £5,500 of expenses, mainly from travel costs. He also received £4,350 as vice convenor of the Lothian and Borders Police Board.

Mr Moffat told TheSouther: “I was put in the unusual position after the election of being on the police, fire and community justice authority boards, which meant a lot of meetings in Edinburgh.”

Mr Moffat added that where possible he tried to take the train to avoid high parking costs, and did not claim for short journeys in his ward.

He said he expected this year’s expenses to show a significant drop in his claims.

Mr Moffat also said he and “most councillors” now paid for their lunches at council headquarters, rather than claiming expenses for them.

Overall, there was a £4,000 drop in travel costs incurred by councillors last year.

An SBC spokesperson said: “We always encourage both staff and elected members to consider measures that can help reduce their carbon footprint and save money, such as car sharing and reducing travel where possible.”