Monday 20 May 2024
 13.2°C   ESE Light Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Council / Councillors’ pay ‘not sufficient’ in cost of living crisis, ex-leader believes

The council chamber at St Ringan's. Photo: SIC

A FORMER SIC leader has suggested having less councillors in Shetland – but paying them more – could end up being better for local democracy.

Steven Coutts led the council from 2018 to earlier this year, when he stepped down at the May elections to take up a new job as the chief executive of social enterprise COPE.

A by-election has already successfully been held in the North Isles after only two candidates came forward for the three posts.

There was also no contest in the Shetland North ward, where just three candidates went for three seats.

Meanwhile another by-election is taking place in Coutts’ former ward, Shetland West, in November after John Leask resigned after only three months in the job due to other work commitments.

More diversity in the council chamber – not only gender but age too – has been desired locally by many in recent years.

The pay, which is nationally set, has been viewed by some as a barrier, particularly when working hours can be unpredictable.

Former SIC leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

The basic pay for a councillor in Scotland currently is £19,571, and locally this rises slightly for committee chairs.

For the leader in Shetland the salary sits at £32,622 and for the convener the pay is £24,467.

But Coutts feels that cutting councillor numbers – currently 23 in Shetland – and spreading the freed up salary around elected members could encourage greater participation in elections.

This is especially pertinent in the cost of living crisis, he added.

“I think the pay and renumeration is not of a scale that really attracts people,” Coutts said, “and I probably do believe we could have fewer councillors in Shetland and pay them more, and we would be better off as a result.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

 

He said he either had a supportive employer or had been self-employed throughout his time as a councillor, “which has been absolutely crucial to enable me to get to the meetings”.

But Coutts added: “The reality of trying to bring up a family in Shetland with the cost of living that we’ve got, never mind the cost of living crisis we’re dealing with now – the pay for a councillor is just not sufficient to cover the costs.

“That means you’re reducing your pool of potential candidates, which is not good for democracy.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.

 

Newsletters

Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.