PLANS to create a pay panel able to veto extravagant wage rises for senior transport officials have been hailed a victory for common sense.
Under city council plans, the panel would be appointed by a new arms-length company, known as Transport for Edinburgh, and would be responsible for determining salaries and bonuses for senior staff running the city’s bus and tram networks. The advisory body will be made up of two councillors and a director.
The move was flagged in response to an outcry over a hefty bonus paid to Ian Craig – the chief executive of council-owned firm Lothian Buses – for 2012-13.
Mr Craig pocketed a generous bonus of about £80,000 on top of his £183,000 salary – a 26 per cent wage increase.
The pay and pensions bill of the firm’s top four directors also soared past £1 million for the first time during the past financial year at a time when bus divers received an inflation-based two per cent increase.
Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi pointed out city councillors had repeatedly resisted awarding themselves wage rises in recent years and would have a positive influence on any pay panel.
He said: “The Scottish Government’s been freezing senior public sector pay for a good number of years now and that’s really what everyone expects. Public servants are supposed to be part of the public too.
“The mechanism they’re talking about, it remains to be seen what it’ll do in practice. But it sounds like a concrete step that could bring salaries into check.
“The public are the major shareholders in Lothian Buses through the City of Edinburgh Council. It’s only fair that the public are represented on there.”
Conservative Party transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said residents of the city expected the level of scrutiny promised courtesy of the new panel.
She said: “You’ve got to start asking questions when you’ve got a bus company that is still under arms-length public ownership and it gets the benefits of that, but doesn’t have any of the disadvantages.
“I’m not sure that the people of Edinburgh are looking at that thinking it’s good value for money. There needs to be some closer oversight of it.”
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie also welcomed the announcement, adding: “Anything that involves public money, I think we’re entitled to ask whether it’s representing good value for the taxpayer.”
Councillors have previously been given no say in the wages paid to Lothian Buses’ directors.
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald questioned why the council needed to form another arms-length company, saying scrutiny of transport officials’ pay should be carried out in-house.
Lothian Buses declined to comment.