Councillors' remuneration and expenses: recommendations

Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) was reconvened in April 2023 to undertake an independent review of councillor remuneration, having last reported in 2011.


Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) was reconvened in April 2023 to undertake an independent review of councillor remuneration, having last reported in 2011.

The Committee issued an Interim Report in October 2023 describing the progress made to date, emerging themes, and further work to be done to produce its findings.

This is the Committee’s Final Report. It sets out the approach adopted by SLARC to delivering its remit set by the Scottish Government and COSLA. It describes how we engaged with local government and other stakeholders in the process, the techniques we applied, the evidence we considered, and our findings.

The report also describes how we addressed the four key questions set out in our remit and makes a series of recommendations in relation to these.

As part of its remit the Committee was asked to ensure its recommendations should be “affordable on an ongoing basis”. The Committee has, at the conclusion of the analysis of evidence, considered this point and is of the opinion that the increased costs constitute a small percentage of the total local authority budget. While we recognise the challenging financial pressures in which the Scottish Government and local government operate, our recommendations would see the cost of remunerating elected members increase by around 0.04% of the total local government budget. On the basis of financial information available to the Committee at this time, it is estimated that the full year costs arising from our recommendations will be £5.1 million per annum from 1 April 2024. This does not include any assumptions to meet the cost of our recommended resettlement payments to councillors losing office, as this will vary on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to the questions, we were asked to consider in our remit, we have identified a broader set of issues we believe to be central to any understanding of councillors’ remuneration in Scotland, and to overcoming barriers to elected office. We have therefore included a series of recommendations around these and described where we consider further work is required to be done, and by whom.

The Committee makes the following findings based on the evidence gathered between April 2023 and November 2023:

  • Overall, the demographic make-up of Scotland’s councillors does not match the general population with under-representation particularly from women, young people and people with disabilities.
  • More than half of councillors who completed our survey reported spending 26 hours per week on formal council duties, while more than 40% consider their role as councillors to be full-time. 38% are either in full-time or part-time work, and 15% are retired in receipt of pensions. Nearly 40% of councillors spend 26-40 hours per week on employment, education, or caring duties out with their council duties.
  • Social media creates more casework for two thirds of councillors and almost as many have experienced on-line personal criticism. Almost three quarters of councillors say their involvement in partnerships and committees has become more demanding since they first became involved.
  • For councillors who are part of an Administration, particularly Council Leaders, the role has become more complex, reflecting the changing landscape within which local government now operates. There is significant variation in the time that individual councillors dedicate to the position, particularly between Opposition and Administration councillors.
  • The work of councillors cannot easily be defined in terms of full-time or part-time. However, we believe that while the role of the councillor can usually be undertaken on a part-time basis and Senior Councillor roles requires a full-time commitment, such distinctions between full-time and part-time are no longer appropriate.
  • The role of councillors is not always well understood by members of other public bodies, and the scale of their responsibility for key public services and community wellbeing is generally not well understood.
  • Some councillors believe that there should be a clearer link between their remuneration package and those received by MSPs or MPs.
  • Current remuneration levels are not considered to reflect the complexity of the role of the councillor, and this can be a significant barrier to potential candidates, as well as serving councillors, particularly those who have no other source of income.
  • The role of the councillor is often much more demanding than newly elected members understood before standing, but induction and training are provided to new councillors by their councils.
  • The current banding structure is thought to be unfair by some councils, particularly smaller authorities who believe it has not kept pace with changes to population structures.

The Committee wishes to take this opportunity to thank COSLA, Scottish councils, the Improvement Service, the Local Government Information Unit (Scotland) and Scottish Government for their assistance throughout its work.

I am grateful to the members of the Committee, all of whom contributed fully to addressing the questions we were set in the remit. Despite the start of our work being delayed until April 2023, their time and expertise has enabled us to meet the timescales originally planned. There is full consensus on the part of Committee members on the recommendations being made to Scottish Ministers and COSLA.

Angela Leitch CBE


Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee

February 2024



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