Bill for Borders councillors’ wages and expenses up to almost £760,000, report reveals

Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam was the authority's highest-earning councillor last year, as is to be expected given her role, taking home �38,524 in wages and expenses.
Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam was the authority's highest-earning councillor last year, as is to be expected given her role, taking home �38,524 in wages and expenses.

The salary and expenses bill run up by Scottish Borders Council’s 34 elected members was £757,911 last financial year, it has been revealed.

That’s up from £747,698 the year before, an increase of less than 2%.

Councillors are paid a basic salary of £16,994 a year, and the 14 senior councillors holding executive positions pick up £22,329.

The highest paid member of the council is its leader, Tweeddale East councillor Shona Haslam, on £33,992 a year, plus £4,532 in expenses, and Leaderdale and Melrose councillor and convener David Parker is next, on £25,494, with £2,729 in expenses.

Councillors claimed £61,120 in travel expenses ing 2018-19, up from £58,745, and £29,001 for telephone and broadband services, down from £30,134.

The level of expenses claimed ranges from the £419 sought by Selkirkshire councillor Caroline Penman to the £6,311 run up by Mid Berwickshire member Mark Rowley due to the frequent trips he is required to make outwith the region due to his job as the council’s executive member for economic development.

A report due to go before a meeting of the full council in Kelso this Thursday, May 16, reads: “Members’ salaries were increased by 0.4% from April 1, 2018 in accordance with legislation, and therefore the annual amount payable to each councillor increased from £16,927 to £16,994 per annum, unless he or she was entitled to one of the higher amounts payable to the leader of the council, the convener or to senior councillors.

“It should be noted that where a higher payment is made that is instead of the £16,994 and not in addition to this amount.

“Travel expenses totalled £61,120 in 2018-19, compared to the 2017-18 figure of £58,745.

“Rail travel totalled £2,019 in 2018-19 compared to £1,722 in 2017-18, with car and van expenses £57,833 in 2018-19 and £56,404 in 2017-18.

“The overall travel expenses figure is expected to fluctuate year on year as claims are based on actual journeys made.

“The amount any one councillor claims varies depending on whether they hold a senior councillor role, the distance they live from council headquarters, the number of meetings they attend and whether their claims are up to date.

“Some councillors may also choose not to make claims for travel expenses.”

A full list of who got paid what and why can be seen at scottishborders.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s36291/Item%20No.%2010%20-%20Appendix%201%20Members%20Expenses%20Council%20Report%20May%202019%20V1.pdf