COSLA is calling for councillors in Scotland to be paid the real Living Wage (£9.90 per hour) as a minimum.
With the role of the councillor changing dramatically over the last few years, the time is right to review the job and its pay, COSLA said.
President of the organisation, Councillor Alison Evison said there has to be a ‘realistic’ review of remuneration for the role and has called for the Scottish Government to look at councillors’ salaries.
The current salary of £18,604 per year simply ‘does not cut the mustard,’ Councillor Evison said, with councillors working on average 38.5 hours per week according to COSLA’s Councillor Remuneration Survey.
The survey was sent out to all local elected members in Scotland in June 2021 and gathered evidence of councillor workload, average weekly hours and the impact of financial barriers to elected office.
It was undertaken as part of wider COSLA work to address barriers to elected office and to increase councillor diversity.
In total, 439 responses were received, which equates to 36% of all councillors across Scotland.
Speaking as she launched the summary findings of the Councillor Remuneration Survey, Councillor Evison said:
“The time has come for a realistic look at the remuneration for the role of a councillor.
“In less than five months, on May 5, Scotland once again goes to the polls to elect the representatives who are the closest to their communities, their local councillors.
“The survey we are releasing today is 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.
“Together with my elected member colleagues, I already passionately believe in local democracy as a real positive force for good within our communities, that is why we stand for election.
“However, to meet the next challenge we need realistic and proper remuneration that better reflects the role of a modern-day councillor.
“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.”
Continuing, Councillor Evison said:
“The current salary for a councillor is £18,604 and that quite frankly does not cut the mustard.
“A survey undertaken by COSLA as part of removing barriers to elected office work clearly shows that councillors from all political parties and none feel that the time has arrived for this new, radical and bold approach to councillors’ remuneration as part of a wider package of action to increase councillor diversity and address financial barriers to elected office for underrepresented groups.
“We are excited about what can be achieved, but we know that to attract a more diverse range of people to the role of the modern councillor simply will not happen without a commitment from Scottish Government to look at councillor remuneration.
“We are not asking for anything too bold, our starting point is that as a minimum, councillors should be paid the real Living Wage for hours worked.
“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?
“The real Living Wage would still only put councillors in the same bracket as the care/retail and hospitality sectors.”
There are a total of 1,227 councillors across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, with a salary being introduced in 2007 as part of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 2004.
Along with their basic annual pay, councillors in senior roles, receive a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) on top of this.