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and licensing systems mean more input is required from councillors, while the fragmentation of political control after the last local elections has led to an increase in audit and scrutiny work. However, the committee also recognises

that the financial landscape across the public sector has been transformed during the course of its deliberations. “Te context of the review is very different to that when we were first commissioned to report in February 2010, and this has evolved sufficiently to impact upon our final recommendations,” says committee chair Ian Livingstone. “We have had to look at councillors’ remuneration against an economic backcloth which has changed beyond recognition.” For that reason, he says, the committee’s

recommendations should be considered alongside those of the Commission on Public Service Delivery, due to report in June, to see whether any of the proposals could be self- financing.

“We have had to look at

councillors’ remuneration against an economic backcloth which

has changed beyond recognition”

In the meantime, the Scottish Government should address urgent issues such as the payment of councillors serving on arm’s length external organisations. Te report is highly critical of Glasgow City Council as the only local authority in Scotland with a policy of remunerating councillors specifically for sitting on such bodies. It found that last July, Glasgow was paying about forty councillors £260,000 over and above its permitted allocation to serve on external organisations such as Cordia and City Building. “Te current practice of paying additional

sums to councillors for serving on ALEOs, often for doing a similar job as they did on council committees, completely undermines the integrity of the national remuneration scheme,” says Livingstone. However, there was some compensation

for Glasgow when the committee proposed an increase in the number of senior councillors the authority can appoint from 24 to 30 in order to address the “relative disparity” in senior councillor numbers with City of Edinburgh Council. Glasgow had long argued that restricting both cities to a maximum of 24 senior members meant

only a third of Glasgow’s councillors could be offered a senior salary compared to half of their counterparts in Edinburgh. Te report also paints a revealing picture of

local government in Scotland today. Despite the last local elections bringing a raft of new faces into council chambers – over half of members elected in 2007 were new – those faces were curiously similar to those they replaced, that is, overwhelmingly white, mostly male, and with an average age of 54. Only a third of councillors carry out some

form of paid work, whether full, part or self-employment, on top of their council duties. One councillor quoted in the report says the way councils do business actively discourages those in full-time employment from standing for election. “Te demands on time combined with family and work commitments are simply too great for all but the politically active, resulting in councils still being dominated by the retired,” says the councillor. As a result, meetings tend to be organised during the day, exacerbating the obstacles for councillors with outside employment. According to Richard Kerley, professor of management at Queen Margaret University and former chair of the Scottish Executive Working Party on Renewing Local Democracy, everyone benefits from greater diversity in council membership. “Te evidence is that people make

decisions based on their perception of the world,” he says. “If that perception is based on being more mature and having raised a family, your awareness of what’s happening in schools and what it’s like trying to get two kids and a buggy onto a bus will be more limited.” But the key to widening access to elected

roles is not necessarily to improve pay, but to make the job itself more attractive to people with work or family responsibilities, he says. As it is, many people are reluctant to stand for election because they see it as an open- ended commitment. “We could give people a clear specification

of what’s involved in being a councillor, and provide an organisational schedule of meetings on a monthly or weekly basis,” he says. Grouping meetings together on certain days of the week, leaving other days clear, for example, would make it easier for people to organise council work around other commitments. Until then, it is clear that local government

has a long way to go to become more representative of the communities it serves. But, like determining councillor pay, widening access to elected posts may be one of those issues that is easier to debate than it is to resolve.


Reforms “superficial and cavalier”, says Mair

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ chief executive Rory Mair has launched a blistering attack on the “simplistic” structural reforms put forward by political parties before the election.

“Whether it is the imposition of an as yet untried proposition from one council area on a national basis or the suggestion of a single care agency, the superficial and cavalier nature of these proposals is jaw dropping,” he told the COSLA annual conference. He warned that the outcomes approach now adopted by councils would be subjected to a “varied, sustained and aggressive” attack over the coming months.

Single outcome agreements lauded Joint working between councils and the Scottish Government has achieved more for local communities than ever before, according to Finance Secretary John Swinney. Swinney told COSLA’s annual conference that single outcome agreements had made a positive impact across Scotland, with local bodies cooperating to promote economic growth, create training opportunities and tackle antisocial behaviour. “The last four years has clearly demonstrated what can be achieved when the Scottish Government works in partnership with local authorities,” he said.

TIF go-ahead for North Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire Council has received provisional ministerial backing for a £73m redevelopment of the site of the former Ravenscraig steelworks through Tax Increment Financing. The scheme, whereby money is borrowed against future increases in business rates income, will lever in up to £425m in private investment and help create up to 5,000 jobs, said the council. “The closure of Ravenscraig steelworks was a hammer blow for North Lanarkshire and Scotland, but this allows us to secure a real and prosperous future for the site and for the area as a whole,” said North Lanarkshire leader Jim McCabe.

Leg up for first-time buyers

East Lothian Council has joined a pioneering project to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. Under the Local Lend a Hand scheme, local authorities provide a cash-backed indemnity of up to 20 per cent to back a deposit of at least 5 per cent from the buyer. East Lothian is putting £1m into the scheme, which is expected to help around 40 people buy their first property. Stuart Currie, cabinet member for housing and community safety, said the move would reduce the 4,000 strong waiting list for council housing in the area.

28 March 2011 Holyrood 31

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