Councillor expenses fall but overall costs rise

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Expenses claimed by Argyll and Bute councillors have fallen for the fourth year in a row, figures have revealed.

A table published by the authority shows £104,925 in expenses was paid to the area’s 36 councillors in the 2019/20 financial year.

It does not include a total of £8,178 in telephone and ICT expenses accrued by councillors, which is met directly by the authority.

In 2018-19, the expenses claimed totalled £116,892 which was a decrease from £129,772 in 2017-18.

On average, councillors were paid £2,914 each in expenses in 2019/20, compared to the 2018/19 average of just under £3,250.

When added to salaries, councillors received £821,833 in the last financial year – an increase of more than £4,000 on 2018/19.

In a statement, executive director Douglas Hendry explained the sums were paid between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

He said the amounts published on the council’s website were gross figures and not the amounts received by councillors as they were subject to tax and national insurance deductions.

Mr Hendry added: ‘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.’

As in previous years, councillor Robin Currie, a resident of Islay required to stay overnight for many of the meetings he attends, claimed the most of any councillor. After deduction of telephone and ICT expenses, his total was £18,208.

More than half of that was for accommodation, with mileage, travelling expenses and meals accounting for the rest.

Councillor Currie serves on several council committees and is a member of the planning, protective services and licensing committee, which meets monthly and holds hearings all across Argyll and Bute. His ward also includes eight community councils.

Another Islay resident, councillor Alastair Redman, claimed the second most with £9,151. He, too, is on the planning committee.

Councillor Mary Jean Devon, also an island resident on Mull, and another planning committee member, claimed £7,547.

The figures show that Oban North and Lorn Councillor Kieron Green claimed a total of £7,185, the vast majority of which was for mileage.

Council leader Aileen Morton claimed £5,288, while a total of £2,440 in expenses was paid to Provost Len Scoullar.

Two councillors, Alan Reid and Andrew Vennard, claimed no expenses at all. Besides their salaries, their only expense shown by the council spreadsheet is for telephone and ICT expenses.