Criticism about the number of Scottish Borders Council officers on six figure salaries has been branded unfair by the council leader.
Borders MSP John Lamont quoted Taxpayers’ Alliance figures - showing that seven employees at Scottish Borders Council received six figure salaries in 2011-12 - when he urged the council to review their salary structure. He compared SBC with Midlothian Council which has half the number of employees on £100,000.
However, the council’s chief financial officer responded: “Our 2010/11 audited statutory accounts show that seven chief officers were paid salaries of over £100,000 in that year. The council’s audited 2011/12 accounts show at March 31, 2012 the comparable figures reduced to four posts, comprising the chief executive and three service directors.
“Salary levels at Scottish Borders Council are set by reference to national agreements and reflect the scale and responsibility associated with the management of a complex public sector organisation with gross annual turnover of £300m.”
Mr Lamont asked the council to review their salary structure to make sure they were getting value for money.
He said: “In this tough financial climate council budgets across Scotland have been stretched further and further in order to keep providing key local services.
“Many people in the Borders will look at these huge salaries and rightfully question whether they provide value for money. For some of these individuals to be getting paid more than the Prime Minister is astonishing, and there can be no doubt that something needs to be done to curb it.
“It is imperative that we keep a close eye on these salaries and always ensure that they are justified and represent the market value.
“With many councils already using consultants it calls into question why this extra money is being spent if the work could be contracted out for less.”
David Parker, council leader, replied: “Everyone is well aware of the challenging financial times we are faced with. This is why we have, over several years, made decisions to help protect our frontline services and our staff.
“We were, for example, the first council in Scotland to reach an agreement with Unions to a pay and increment freeze for all non-teaching staff who receive salaries over £21k from April 1,2011 in exchange for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.
“It is unfair for figures published by the Taxpayers Alliance to be misinterpreted in this way - especially when we continue to put SBC in a good financial position despite the decrease in funding and ongoing challenges we are faced with. This includes reducing the number of senior staff in the council year on year.”