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.

Follow up meetings: Council Engagement Sessions

Throughout July and August 2023, the Committee completed a programme of Council Engagement Sessions. These were designed to test out the key themes emerging from the survey, as well as from the Committee’s broader workstreams. We engaged with 11 councils from across the spectrum of bandings, and representing cities, urban and rural communities, and the islands. These sessions typically involved SLARC members meeting with the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, the Council Leader, Councillors and Senior Councillors.

Key Messages emerging from these sessions were:

i. The role of councillors, especially those within the Administration, and in particular, Council Leaders, has become more complex covering as it does, ward, council-wide, regional, national, and occasionally international dimensions.

ii. The complexity of the Leader’s role reflects the changing landscape within which local government now operates. Formal partnerships aiming to deliver shared outcomes for citizens predominate. These include Community Planning Partnerships, Health and Social Care Partnership Integration Joint Boards, and regional economic partnerships such as City/Region Deals.

iii. A key element of the Council Leader’s role is to work across political and group boundaries to build consensus to drive forward complex local and national policy programmes in their areas.

iv. There is significant variation in the time that individual councillors dedicate to the position depending on the roles they hold within the council. Our Councillors’ Survey showed that this ranged from 21 hours to 36 hours per week being spent by councillors on formal council business.

v. The time commitment of a councillor is dependent on the make-up of the council, the governance arrangements in place and the composition of the Administration. In some local authorities those in Opposition could find themselves focusing primarily on ward duties with occasional committee attendance. Those in Administration saw themselves being required to take part in a greater number of committees, outside bodies and undertake ward duties.

vi. The Committee is of the opinion that as the role is an elected office and not employment, the work of councillors cannot be defined in terms of full-time or part-time. However, the evidence we gathered throughout the committee process indicates that the role of the Councillor can, in the main be undertaken on a part- time basis while those holding Senior Councillor roles require more of a full-time commitment. This is supported by the numbers who report having other commitments out with their councillor role. R1

vii. The role of elected members is not well understood by members of other public bodies working in partnership with councils, and often, councillors do not experience parity of esteem in partnership settings. The importance of the role of councillors as elected members responsible for key public services and the furtherance of community wellbeing is generally not well understood and should be re-stated publicly. R18

viii. Councillors are subject to increasing abuse via social media which can be particularly targeted at young, female members. The Committee is aware of the work currently underway by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee who recently noted in correspondence to Council Chief Executives that:

“We are aware that the long-standing issue of political culture and at times, the toxicity of debate, both within councils themselves but also across the broader political landscape and wider society as a whole – something that is particularly evident in online discourse – can act as a major barrier to diverse representation”.

ix. Some councillors believe that there should be a clearer link between the remuneration package provided to them and those received by parliamentarians, reflecting more clearly the shared responsibility of councillors, MSPs and MPs to represent the interests of their constituents. Very often, we heard that the complex portfolios carried by senior councillors involved far greater responsibilities than some parliamentary roles.

x. Current remuneration levels are not considered to reflect or match the complexity of the role of the councillor. This can be a significant barrier to candidates, particularly women, people with disabilities, lone parents, and young people. We heard that the current level of remuneration can lead to candidates deciding not to stand, or to serving councillors standing down after serving a single term, as well as concern at the lack of any severance arrangements for councillors losing office. Consequently, the demographic make-up of Scotland’s councillors does not match the general population with under-representation from many key groups.

xi. Some councillors have indicated their belief that the current banding structure is unfair. This is particularly true of elected members in smaller authorities who believe it has not kept pace with changes to population structures over the last decade and is likely to continue to diverge with further, large-scale housing developments either planned or underway.

xii. The role of the councillor is often much more demanding than newly elected members were led to believe before standing, and there is little evidence of political parties supporting the induction of new members, or their ongoing development following election. Induction and training are routinely provided to new elected members by their councils with follow up training opportunities available on an ongoing basis. Up to date Role Descriptions should be produced for all elected members and the Committee has produced sample role outlines in Appendix 5.

Figure 2: Most Common Messages from Councils during Engagement Sessions

Most Common Messages from Councils


The role of elected members is not understood by non-elected members of other public bodies.

The Leader’s role is highly complex covering, ward, local, regional, national/international dimensions.

Remuneration levels do not match the complexity of the role of the councillor, and this is a significant barrier to candidates, particularly women, who often carry other responsibilities.


Councillors should receive greater parity with the range of supports received by parliamentarians.

Senior Councillor roles can only be delivered on a full-time basis.

Councillors receive initial training.


Councillors are subject to increasing negative comments via social media which can be particularly targeted at young, female members.

Councillors are very visible in their communities, more publicly available and more widely accessible than those appointed to other public office.

Council Leaders in the main work across parties to seek consensus.

The demographic make-up of council membership does not match the general population with women and young people particularly under-represented. This is directly linked to the low level of councillor remuneration.


Senior Councillors are responsible for large, complex service/political portfolios, compared to the role of councillors.




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