Councillors argue over "double increase" in pay award

Councillors in West Lothian have agreed an increase to their annual pay awards for the year.
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The payment for 12 councillors who chair committees rises by £1800, on top of the basic £1246 which all councillors have been awarded.

SNP group leader Janet Campbell branded the award to senior councillors as a “double increase” during a cost of living crisis.

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Councillors dismissed an amendment by the opposition group as “gaslighting the public” and playing politics.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said it was, essentially, a cost of living increase.Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said it was, essentially, a cost of living increase.
Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said it was, essentially, a cost of living increase.

Elected members remuneration is set by the Scottish Government.

The 12 senior councillors will get a rise of £1817 to £31,131 and councillors who also serve on Joint Boards will get an increase of up to £1558.

Councillors will get a £1246 increase to £21,345.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick, who proposed a motion to accept the annual increase, will see his annual salary rise 6.2 per cent by £2493 to £42,698. The Provost, Councillor Cathy Muldoon, will see her salary rise by £1870 to £32,024.

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Councillor Fitzpatrick told the meeting: “Essentially, this is a cost of living increase.

“We’ve had a difficult time in councils and our cost of living as elected members is also granted to members of the Scottish Parliament, Cabinet Secretaries and MPs, which are significantly well ahead of what is paid to councillors.”

In this coming financial year MSPs in Holyrood have voted to increase their salaries by 6.7 per cent, taking their salaries to £72,000, and have awarded councillors a salary increase of 6.2 per cent taking the basic salary to £21,345.

Councillor Campbell said she had no issue with a cost of living increase but added: “What we’re saying is that senior councillors should not be putting themselves in a position where they’re awarding themselves a double increase.”

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And fellow SNP member Pauline Orr said for senior councillors to be awarding themselves a bumper increase was “entirely the wrong message to send to beleaguered constituents who do not have the luxury of deciding upon their own salary increase.”

Her colleague, Councillor Carl John said: “I do see this as senior councillors giving themselves a second either rise or responsibility payment.

“It should be recorded that we’re sticking up for the general public in these times of severe austerity.”

The SNP amendment said: “West Lothian Council Executive agrees that given that senior Councillors will automatically be the beneficiaries of the proposed salary increase for ordinary councillors, it is entirely unacceptable for the senior members of this body to vote themselves a second additional increase over and above the statutory increase set by the Scottish Government.

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“West Lothian Council Executive resolves to maintain the Council’s senior councillor payments for 2024/25 at the current level. i.e. 23/24 levels.”

Conservative group leader Damian Doran-Timson dismissed the SNP amendment as “virtue-signalling” and “ gaslighting the public.”

“Everybody knows this is virtue signalling just so they can go out on social media and blame the bad Labour and Tories for awarding themselves a payrise,” he said.

Senior councillors are paid in recognition that their role is considered a full time post whereas non senior councillors are classed as working part time.

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Councillor Andrew McGuire, formerly Labour, now an Independent, branded the amendment as playing party politics and said, after the motion to back the rises was carried: “It is incredibly mischievous of the SNP group in West Lothian to suggest that senior councillors were awarding themselves a higher salary increase at the council Executive. All they were doing was agreeing to pass on the full 6.2% cost of living increase to senior councillors in the next financial year.”

He added: “The role of a councillor is a public office and as such salaries are set by the Scottish Parliament each year.

“A recent survey of councillors showed that on average councillors worked between 25 and 30 hours a week and that this role is classed as part time. Some councillors take on additional responsibilities as well as their ward duties such as chairing council committees and are awarded an additional payment, again set by the Scottish Parliament each year.”

Lib Dem councillor Sally Pattle said: “I think everybody deserves the remuneration that is being proposed today, because we all work very hard for the communities that we were elected to represent.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​