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Councillor costs down again

Lerwick Town Hall acts as the base for Shetland's 22 councillors. Photo: Shetland News

SALARIES and expenses for Shetland’s councillors in 2017/18 was down by nearly seven per cent on the previous year to just over £457,000.

Nearly £400,000 was paid out in nationally-set salaries, with Cecil Smith – who was leader between May and March – the top earner, receiving just over £26,000.

The recipient of the most expenses was convener Malcolm Bell, whose bill of nearly £16,000 reflected the numerous appointments he had off of Shetland.

Smith and development committee chairman Alastair Cooper were the second and third highest expenses claimants respectively.

A total of £59,196 was claimed by councillors in expenses in 2017/18 – a big decrease from the £84,446 given out in 2016/17.

The lowest expenses claims for councillors who were elected in May were from North Isles members Alec Priest and Duncan Simpson, who both asked for £156.62.

Smith claimed the highest car and van mileage (£3,407.85), while Bell received the most to cover subsistence expenses (£5,974.82).

Westside member Theo Smith claimed the most for telephone and ICT expenses (£414.94).

Councillors must provide receipts to reclaim expenses incurred while on official business, and they may only claim up to the limits set by the Scottish Government. Anything over this limit must be met by members personally.

The basic salary for councillors is £16,927, with committee chairs receiving more.

Attendance figures for council meetings during 2017/18 have also been released.

Convener Bell said: “I’m pleased to see a reduction again in this year’s figures, showing the expenses that councillors have spent carrying out their public role. As councillors, we each represent our wards and the wider interests of Shetland, but we are well aware of the need to keep the cost to the public purse to a minimum.

“Wherever we can, we try to conduct business remotely using technology such as video conferencing. However, there are times when we need to attend meetings in person so we can ensure Shetland’s voice is heard at a national level.

“We also conduct as much official business as possible when we do travel. In most cases, we have each spent this money in advance, and so are personally out of pocket until any expenses claims are processed.”