Call for local council pay overhaul as survey reveals councillors do not receive Real Living Wage

Local councillors’ pay should be reviewed and brought up to at least the Real Living Wage, the umbrella body for local authorities has claimed.

Cosla has called for reform of councillors' pay.

Cosla said that the current remuneration for a local councillor of £18,604 was not sufficient, when taking into account that the average councillor works 38.5 hours a week in the role – resulting in an equivalent hourly rate lower than the Real Living Wage of £9.90.

Councillor Alison Evison, president of Cosla, said there has to be a “realistic” review of remuneration for the role, and called for the Scottish Government to look at councillors’ salaries.

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A remuneration survey carried out by the organisation found that councillors work 38.5 hours a week, while those in receipt of Special Responsibility Allowances for additional roles, work on average 50.3 hours per week. More than one in four councillors reported working weekly hours in a paid second job, working on average 24.8 hours per week in this additional employment.

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The survey, which aimed to look at obstacles to people running for elected office, also found that financial barriers were cited by several female councillors who stated that they were, or were considering, not standing for re-election in 2022. It said that councillors responding to the survey identified remuneration as a major barrier to diversity and highlighted the difficulties in balancing the workload of a councillor alongside a second paid job that is vital for financial wellbeing.

Scottish Council elections are due to take place on 5 May.

Councillor Evison said: “The time has come for a realistic look at the remuneration for the role of a Councillor. The survey findings we are releasing today are a pivotal opportunity to think about the kind of modern Councillor we want, and about the changes that we need to make to attract candidates who could make a real difference to communities across the country.

“All of us within Scottish Local Government want to harness the power of a more locally democratic way of doing things, to enable a more diverse range of voices at the decision-making table, and to overhaul participation in council policy-making across the country – but people need to be properly remunerated to make this rhetoric a reality.”

Councillor Evison warned the current salary “does not cut the mustard”.

She said: “There would rightly be uproar if Councils did not pay their employees the Real Living Wage – therefore why not Councillors, who according to our survey findings work 38.5 hours per week?”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that since 2017, councillors' pay has increased annually in line with the percentage increase in the median annual earnings of public sector workers in Scotland.

He said: “The Government is open to working with Cosla to further consider this issue, including considering making improvements which will help increase the diversity of councillors in Scotland. It is vital that we encourage a wider range of people to seek election, including more women, ethnic minorities and younger people so that councils can better reflect the society we live in.”

A total of 436 councillors responded to the survey – 36 per cent of those elected to work in Scottish local authorities.

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