There has been quite a bit of discussion about how much councillors receive for being councillors. When I took part in the Radio Orkney hustings, one of the questions suggested that the remuneration should be raised so that higher quality candidates would put themselves forward for election. It has also been suggested that only people with additional income streams (such as businesses or pensions) can afford to be councillors.
My response was honest: it’s more than I currently earn from my self-employment and relief work combined – if I get elected, my income is going to be enhanced.
So, I think we need to be realistic about Councillors’ remuneration.
Firstly, at just under £17,000 a year, it is more than a lot of people earn in Orkney. It is certainly more than anyone on benefits gets. And we all know many people who work several part-time, temporary or seasonal jobs who would be thrilled to earn this amount. Most OIC employees working at Band 3 or below earn less than this. It is a good income for Orkney where the median salary is about £21,000. It is also a more secure ‘contract’ than many people have in Orkney, with access to a pension scheme (a rare and valuable asset these days). In addition, it is not a physically demanding job, nor is it dangerous or hazardous (although I have been informed it can be stressful).
Secondly, we need to be aware of how this remuneration is funded. It is funded by the equivalent of 20 Orkney households paying Council Tax at band A. That’s for EACH councillor. There are around 20 councillors. So that’s about 400 households, in Orkney, paying their Council Tax for one year, just to pay for Councillors.
Admittedly it isn’t enough to raise a family on alone, nor would you be able to get much of a mortgage (and there aren’t many properties, even in Orkney, for less than £50,000).
And it is nowhere near what CEO’s earn, nor top public employees, MSPs, MPs, GPs …
But I don’t hold with the argument that to get the best, you have to pay the top wages. If that was the case there would be no nurses, teachers, ministers … that is the sort of argument that justifies vastly unequal pay awards to top executives – exactly the same argument that says that ‘the haves’ should be motivated by rewards, whilst the ‘have nots’ should be motivated by fear and punishment.
I think it is an adequate amount. And I think that those who serve should experience adequate for themselves; that way they might develop empathy, if they do not have it already. And until I see Councillors queuing to access the FoodBank, I don’t see any cause for complaint. Rather I see cause for gratitude.
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