Gaming the System On Councillors Pay

Stream Gaming The System | Listen to podcast episodes online for free on  SoundCloud

A reminder from the blog archive that it's the SNP who abolished independent oversight of councillor expenses and opened the floodgates for SNP councillors to 'game the system' with lucrative 2nd or even 3rd jobs with friendly MSPs and MPs. 

Not only do these arrangements allow councillors to 'fill their boots' at public expense - to my mind they also compromise the independence of Scottish local government.

Because councillors who rely on MSPs (for example a Government Minister) or MPs for a significant part of their income are in a weak position when it comes to standing up for the interests of their local communities.

   

Who Guards The Guards? (January 19, 2022)

Who will guard the guards? If we're the guards of society, then... |  Picture Quotes

Here's my 2013 letter of resignation to Derek Mackay the former SNP finance minister who is now throughly and deservedly disgraced.

Though I say so myself, everything I predicted about Derek Mackay's decision to abolish SLARC has come true.

Yet the SNP continue to operate without independent oversight which has allowed Scottish Ministers to cook the books and provide elected councillors with much better pay increases than the rest of the council workforce.   

Put plainly - it's a damned disgrace.

Letter of resignation to Derek MackayFinance Minister 28 January 2013

Derek Mackay
Local Government and Planning Minister
Scottish Government
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

By e-mail

Dear Mr Mackay

Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC)

I would like to inform you that I am resigning my membership of the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) with immediate effect.

My reason for doing so is that under your stewardship, as Local Government and Planning Minister, SLARC has effectively been allowed to wither and die, despite its track record of success in creating an effective remuneration scheme for elected  councillors in Scotland - a task which defeated at least two previous Government appointed advisory bodies, i.e. the Sewell and Kerley Commissions.

I have to say that I am very disappointed in your lack of support for SLARC and, in particular, for the committee’s robust and independent role on remuneration issues which, in my view, has been the key to SLARC's success with members being appointed only for their independence of mind and thought, and without any regard to politics or political affiliation.

For example, SLARC was instrumental in bringing the issue of 'top-up' payments to arm's length bodies in Glasgow City Council to the attention of the Scottish Government and this practice, widely regarded as a waste of public money and flagrant abuse of the remuneration scheme, was finally outlawed by the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, after a detailed investigation and report to Scottish Ministers by SLARC.

I think it is fair to say that without SLARC the abuse of the remuneration scheme in Glasgow, which ran to hundreds of thousands of pounds of course, would almost certainly have gone unnoticed and unchallenged.

One of SLARC's greatest strengths has been its practice of engaging in an ongoing dialogue with the stakeholders in Scottish local government, which included regular visits to local councils, to discuss the effectiveness of the councillors' remuneration scheme.

The great majority of SLARC'S visits to local councils were very positive, but the practice of gathering information and asking probing questions of councils played a crucial role in bringing the scandal of Glasgow's ALEO payments to public attention.

So, I find it difficult to understand your evident lack of support for an independent body dealing with remuneration issues which has, in recent times, meant that the members of the committee have not been replaced as they finish their terms of office, preventing valuable experience and expertise from being passed on and used, in future, to good effect. But the long, slow process of appointing new Members to SLARC has not even begun, as you know, which in my view tells its own story about your future intentions.

I know that you have stated in previous correspondence with SLARC that you are considering a different approach, albeit without explaining exactly what this new approach entails. In my view any departure from having an independent body deal with remuneration issues will be a retrograde step, especially if Government policy is changed without initiating a proper debate in the Scottish Parliament, which established SLARC in the first place.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine 

 

Who Guards the Guards? (January 11, 2022)

Recent history confirms that politicians behave very badly when there is a lack of independent scrutiny and here's a good example which explains how the SNP have been cynically 'gaming the system' over councillors pay.

And now that Scotland's Standards Commission has been told to get its act together maybe that's where to raise the issue in the New Year.

 

Who Guards the Guards? (November 22, 2021)

As regular readers know, I've received an acknowledgment and a case number in response to my recent letter to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.

Now this doesn't mean, of course, that I will receive a serious, considered reply in due course because there are politics involved - SNP politics.

John Swinney took decisive action back in 2011, as finance minister, but it was arguably easier then because Glasgow was a Labour run council 10 years ago and 'doing the right thing' was pretty straightforward.

In 2021 Glasgow is a SNP run council and the two MSPs involved (Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon) are both fellow ministers - the latter being Mr Swinney's boss, of course.

So the question comes down to "Who guards the guards?" 

How do ordinary citizens who raise legitimate questions and issues get taken seriously, if the complaints system is not independent and the political establishment is investigating itself?   

    

Daylight is the Best Disinfectant - Deputy First Minister (November 15, 2021)

As regular readers know, I have a number of activities planned which aim to get to the bottom of what's been going on in Glasgow over councillors' salaries.

But I thought I'd step the campaign up a gear with a letter to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, who intervened 10 years ago, as Scotland's Finance Minister, to put an end to another 'top up' scandal in Glasgow.

So let's hope the Scottish Government acts decisively this time around - without fear or favour to any of the individuals involved.

 

    

Letter to John Swinney, Deputy First Minister - 15 November 2021

Dear Mr Swinney

Glasgow - Gaming the System on Councillors' Salaries 

I am sure you remember taking decisive action as Finance Minister back in 2011 to end the scandal of 'top up' payments that Glasgow City Council was making to elected councillors who sat on various council ALEOs (Arms Length External Organisations) - in addition to their nationally agreed salaries.

As you know, this abuse of public money was drawn to your attention by SLARC (Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee) which uncovered what was going on during one of its visits with GCC officials and the council's elected leader at the time, Gordon Matheson.

SLARC advised the Scottish Government that Glasgow's 'top up' scheme was just a scam to boost the pay of elected councillors (across all parties) which contravened the Scotland wide scheme covering councillors' salaries and expenses.

A different scam has now emerged which involves Glasgow MSPs topping up the salaries of certain Glasgow councillors by employing them in their local constituency offices, despite the fact that the individuals concerned already enjoy full-time salaries with the City Council.

I am raising these matters with you as Deputy First Minister because SLARC was abolished by your successor Derek Mackay and, as a result, there is no longer an independent public body providing oversight and advising Scottish Ministers. 

The two specific examples I wish to draw to your attention involve Nicola Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside and Cllr Mhairi Hunter - along with Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow Pollok and Cllr Jennifer Layden.

I enclose a copy of my 2013 resignation letter from SLARC which warned about the dangers of abolishing independent oversight of councillor salaries. I also enclose copies of my letters to Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, the MSPs for Glasgow Southside and Glasgow Pollok respectively

I look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to provide any further information you require. 

Kind regards


Mark Irvine 


Letter of resignation to Derek MackayFinance Minister 28 January 2013

Derek Mackay
Local Government and Planning Minister
Scottish Government
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

By e-mail

Dear Mr Mackay

Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC)

I would like to inform you that I am resigning my membership of the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) with immediate effect.

My reason for doing so is that under your stewardship, as Local Government and Planning Minister, SLARC has effectively been allowed to wither and die, despite its track record of success in creating an effective remuneration scheme for elected  councillors in Scotland - a task which defeated at least two previous Government appointed advisory bodies, i.e. the Sewell and Kerley Commissions.

I have to say that I am very disappointed in your lack of support for SLARC and, in particular, for the committee’s robust and independent role on remuneration issues which, in my view, has been the key to SLARC's success with members being appointed only for their independence of mind and thought, and without any regard to politics or political affiliation.

For example, SLARC was instrumental in bringing the issue of 'top-up' payments to arm's length bodies in Glasgow City Council to the attention of the Scottish Government and this practice, widely regarded as a waste of public money and flagrant abuse of the remuneration scheme, was finally outlawed by the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, after a detailed investigation and report to Scottish Ministers by SLARC.

I think it is fair to say that without SLARC the abuse of the remuneration scheme in Glasgow, which ran to hundreds of thousands of pounds of course, would almost certainly have gone unnoticed and unchallenged.

One of SLARC's greatest strengths has been its practice of engaging in an ongoing dialogue with the stakeholders in Scottish local government, which included regular visits to local councils, to discuss the effectiveness of the councillors' remuneration scheme.

The great majority of SLARC'S visits to local councils were very positive, but the practice of gathering information and asking probing questions of councils played a crucial role in bringing the scandal of Glasgow's ALEO payments to public attention.

So, I find it difficult to understand your evident lack of support for an independent body dealing with remuneration issues which has, in recent times, meant that the members of the committee have not been replaced as they finish their terms of office, preventing valuable experience and expertise from being passed on and used, in future, to good effect. But the long, slow process of appointing new Members to SLARC has not even begun, as you know, which in my view tells its own story about your future intentions.

I know that you have stated in previous correspondence with SLARC that you are considering a different approach, albeit without explaining exactly what this new approach entails. In my view any departure from having an independent body deal with remuneration issues will be a retrograde step, especially if Government policy is changed without initiating a proper debate in the Scottish Parliament, which established SLARC in the first place.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine  

Popular posts from this blog

SNP - Conspiracy of Silence

ScotGov, Humza and Nicola

Glasgow, Gifts Cards and Equal Pay