Falkirk Council: Independent councillor seeks answers on why scrutiny role is not paid extra

An Independent councillor is still demanding to know why the position he holds on Falkirk Council overseeing the Scrutiny committee is not among those to get paid extra.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 11:30 am

Councillor Brian McCabe, who represents Denny and Banknock, previously raised the issue at meetings of Falkirk Council but he has not been satisfied with the answers he was given.

Now, he has written to the leader of Falkirk Council, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, and to COSLA asking for more detail on how such decisions are made.

In his letter, he challenged Cllr Meiklejohn to explain “what deliberations were carried out to arrive at some of the posts being remunerated and others not”.

Councillor Brian McCabe (pic: Lisa Evans)

And he now says he is angry that he has not had a response after 16 days.

He believes it is discrimination against his Non-Aligned Independents Group that the convenership of Scrutiny is not a paid role while councillors in charge of Planning, Civic Licensing and the Licensing Board do get a financial uplift.

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At the first meeting of the newly elected council in May, he and Councillor Robert Spears – the two members of the Non-Aligned Independents Group – put forward an amendment seeking parity for the Scrutiny Convenor’s role.

They were told that strict rules mean that in Falkirk – with 30 councillors – only 14 roles can be remunerated and a cap of £342,524 is in place.

That meant that their request could have been accommodated within budget – but other councillors did not support this. They maintained that there were other unpaid convenerships – including the External Scrutiny committee – that are just as important and it wasn’t possible to include them all.

Cllr McCabe said: “I have subsequently written to COSLA to seek their understanding of Senior Councillor Remunerations. COSLA are the de facto body responsible for invoking the inappropriate ‘guidelines’ on Senior Councillor numbers and the relevant financial package to remunerate those Senior Councillors.

“The system is iniquitous. It doesn’t follow that we have to abide by it.”

When the issue of how Cllr Meiklejohn had decided the appointments was previously challenged at Falkirk Council, she said: “I am confident that every one of my portfolio holders are there in a justified position – based on their knowledge, skills and experience.”

She also said that “her door had always been open” to offers from other councillors while as SNP group leader she had been trying to form an administration.

But Cllr McCabe says it is not up to Independents to make the approach, telling her “we are not mind readers”.

He added that the treatment of Cllr Spears – Falkirk’s longest serving councillor was “particularly galling”.

He said: “Having supported your administration in the previous Council iteration, a simple approach to seek the thoughts of the longest serving Councillor should not have been beyond your gift.

Cllr Meiklejohn, who is currently on holiday, said most councillors choose to work from home while the council is in recess and she has only recently received Cllr McCabe’s letter.