Councillors expenses down for third year in row

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The amount claimed in expenses by councillors in Argyll and Bute has fallen for the third year in a row, according to newly-published figures.

A spreadsheet released by Argyll and Bute Council shows that its 36 members claimed a total of £116,892 over 2018-19, compared to £129,772 the year before.

That amounts to just under £3,250 on average per councillor.

When added to salaries, councillors were paid a total of £817,138 in 2018-19, compared to £820,748 for the previous financial year.

These figures do not include each councillor’s telephone/ICT expenditure, which is met directly by the council.

The total figure for expenses has fallen every year since 2015/16.

A statement from the council by executive director of customer services Douglas Hendry said: ‘The amounts shown [in the spreadsheet] are not the amounts actually received by councillors.

‘First, the remuneration payments shown are gross figures, which are then subject to tax and national insurance deductions.

‘Secondly, other expense payments relate solely to the reimbursement of actual expenditure incurred by the councillor, and are all backed up with receipts.

‘Thirdly, the council decided that it would be more effective to provide a broadband connection for each councillor for council business related communication and telephone calls. No reimbursement has been made to councillors in respect of such costs. These are all paid for directly by the council on behalf of councillors. These are included in the table this year, reflecting revised guidance issued on such costs.’

With telephone/ICT expenses deducted from the total figures shown in the spreadsheet, Councillor Robin Currie [Kintyre and the Islands] was the largest claimant, with a total of £19,560.

He lives on the island of Islay and is a member of several committees, including the planning, protective services and licensing [PPSL], which meets on a monthly basis at the council chambers in Lochgilphead and holds hearings throughout the year across Argyll and Bute. His ward also includes eight community councils.

Just under half of Councillor Currie’s expense claims were for accommodation, with mileage and travelling expenses accounting for most of the rest.

His fellow Kintyre and the Islands councillor, Islay-based Alastair Redman, who  is also on the PPSL committee, claimed just over £12,400, the second highest of any councillor.

Other island-based councillors’ claims were also increased by travel expenses.

Councillor Mary-Jean Devon, who lives on Mull, claimed just under £7,900, while three other councillors live on the Isle of Bute – Jim Findlay [£2,507], Jean Moffat [£2,238] and the council’s Provost, Len Scoullar [£4,569].

Council leader Aileen Morton [Helensburgh Central] claimed just under £6,500, while Andrew Vennard [Oban North and Lorn] claimed the least with just £7.20 for travel expenses.