Edinburgh chiefs must find extra cash for senior councillors after appointing too many

CITY chiefs are looking for extra cash for councillors’ salaries after appointing too many of them to top posts.

The city council agreed a pay package totalling more than £630,000 for the Lord Provost, council leader, committee conveners, vice-conveners and opposition leaders within days of being elected in May. But now it has emerged that a shake-up of the committee system has pushed the council over the legal limit of 24 “senior councillor” posts.

And council leaders are trying to find some way of funding salaries for two vice-conveners omitted from the revised list of salaried posts agreed in September. Labour’s economy vice-convener, Gordon Munro, and SNP transport vice-convener Jim Orr were left out, while other vice-conveners had their councillors’ basic pay of £16,234 boosted to £21,917.

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Part of the problem was the decision to create a new best value committee, chaired by former Tory group leader Jeremy Balfour, who will be paid £24,352 per year, and a new petitions committee, chaired by Green councillor Maggie Chapman, who will receive £21,917.

One administration source said: “We changed the governance arrangements and created these two new posts to make things more accountable, but now we seem to have fallen foul of the limit on numbers. We’re in a bit of a predicament and I don’t know how it’s going to be resolved.”

The council insists it has not broken the £633,144 limit on the amount it can pay in “senior councillor” salaries, but if a way is found to fund the two vice-conveners at the equivalent rates, the total remuneration to those in top posts will go beyond that figure.

An opposition source said it looked as if the two vice-convener posts had been omitted by mistake. The source said: “They wanted to be seen to be maximising the big tent by creating the two new committees and having them chaired by opposition councillors. I don’t know what Gordon Munro and Jim Orr did to be left out, but it’s going to be very awkward trying to find money from somewhere else to pay them.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Some details are still being worked on but the most important point is that this will not involve any increase in the total amount that is paid to senior councillors.”