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.

Appendix 1: Key Themes from Councillors’ Survey Open Comments

Q1 Has the workload and responsibilities of Councillors increased and become more complex?

The role is more demanding than the pay suggests. Candidates are often led to believe being a councillor is a part-time role, but the reality is different. If the role is carried out properly, it is full time, and the workload is heavy. Demand on councillors is increasing.

Representing Islands, rural or large urban areas adds complexity and greater demands on councillors as does being part of the Administration compared to Opposition.

Some are unable to commit the number of hours needed to do the council role justice given the volume of paperwork, meetings and other commitments they are juggling in a typical week. It is full-time and more. Some members would like to give up work to be a full-time councillor but can’t afford it.

Councillors are underpaid and undervalued. The important role that local authorities play in the governance of Scotland is not being properly recognised but demands on councillors are at least on a par with parliamentarians.

The role should be treated like other elected offices and pay, and access to other supports such as office staff, should be on a par with MSPs/MPs. There is currently no parity of esteem or equivalent compensation for councillors compared with MSPs and MPs. There is no transitional support when councillors lose or give up their seats.

Councillors’ work-related stress can impact on personal health and family life; pressure can be overwhelming, and support is lacking from councils and political parties Councillors’ families sacrifice a lot.

Low pay deters potentially good candidates from standing. Coupled with long hours, this means some councillors are considering leaving and returning to their previous jobs, while others have already decided they will be standing down at the next election due to lack of money.

Responsibilities need to be properly rewarded. Low pay is a barrier to standing, so higher pay is needed to attract younger candidates. The role is often seen as the domain of the retired and is not attracting sufficient numbers in the 30-60 age band. The current pay level does not match the value of the role, and on its own is not enough to provide a career option for young people.

Campaigning to win a seat requires candidates to make sacrifices that not all can afford in relation to their job, or the financial costs involved. Some employers are not keen to take on councillors, and some think being a councillor is a full-time role and are reluctant to employ councillors. It can therefore be difficult for councillors to secure second jobs to supplement their council income.

There is a financial cost to being a councillor, with out-of-pocket expenses, transport and childcare costs.

The role is almost closed off to lone parents and unpaid carers, and disability barriers are ignored.

Q2 Has the use of email, social media and other digital platforms increased pressure on Councillors and increased demands from their constituents, including expecting speedier responses?

Councillors are now very visible and easy for the public to contact through various online channels. Public expectations are increasing with no limits on when councillors can be contacted, meaning councillors are never off the clock.

Social media has added a degree of difficulty and online abuse has increased. Young female councillors have been particularly targeted for abuse.

Q3 Has there been an increase in formal committee meetings (and the duration of these meetings) and informal meetings, such as working groups within a council?

There are too many papers to read over short timescales and too many long meetings. Senior roles, as part of the Administration are full time roles. In smaller areas, greater demands are placed on fewer councillors.

Q4 What is the breakdown of the average time spent by a Councillor carrying out their day-to-day duties e.g. committee meetings, constituent queries etc?

No Comments Received.



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