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Council chiefs face pay call

COUNCIL chiefs across Scotland are facing pressure to take a pay freeze after senior management at the country's largest local authority waived their first wage hike in several years.

GEORGE BLACK: Said those at top were happy to forego rise.
GEORGE BLACK: Said those at top were happy to forego rise.

Following the decision by Cosla, the umbrella body for Scotland's authorities, to award staff a 1% rise, executive directors at Glasgow City Council, their deputies and heads of its arms-length organisations have decided to forego the increase.

The corporate management team will give up anything from around £1700 for chief executive George Black (salary £170,000), to £1300 for executive directors and almost £1000 for their deputies.

Although the move will only save around £30,000, the council said the decision was less about the savings and more about reflecting the view that any increases should be directed further down the pay scale.

However, it is expected to lead to politicians in other councils across Scotland putting pressure on their own corporate management teams to do the same.

The city has led the way in several initiatives on pay in the country. Among these, public bodies across Scotland followed Glasgow's lead in introducing a £7-plus living wage.

One senior Labour Party source said: "This will absolutely put pressure on other councils.

"Politicians across Scotland will be looking to their own senior managers and saying 'It's time they were thinking about this' as well.

"The view will be that any increases should be directed further down the pay scale, so you now have staff at the bottom whose pay went up with the living wage, staff in the middle who'll get 1% next year and staff at the top who'll get 0% next year.

"The savings will run into several hundred thousand pounds nationally, a drop in the ocean, but there should be a perception that those at the top take a bigger share of the pain than those at the bottom."

However, the decision has been taken with a degree of scepticism by trades unions, who said the 1% rise agreed by Cosla was unacceptable.

Unison's Brian Smith said: "We hope that this gesture by the council's top bosses is not designed to encourage their workforce into accepting another pay cut.

"Over the last three years council workers have seen their pay cut by 13% in real terms.

"Unison finds the 1% offer for next year unacceptable as it is still a pay cut in real terms with yearly inflation over 3%.

"Many of our members earn just above £7.50 per hour and deserve more than gestures."

Graeme Hendry, leader of Glasgow's SNP group, said: "Senior management in Glasgow City Council are very well paid and it is only right they should be doing this at this time.

"I believe it was suggested by opposition parties in the council in previous budgets so it is good to see the idea being taken up.

"The next step would be to review the number of senior managers in Glasgow to see if that has fallen in line with the number of frontline staff."

Chief executive George Black said: "My colleagues and I are proud to work for the first council in Scotland to introduce the living wage.

"After a three-year freeze, it's right people on lower and middle incomes receive a small increase next year.

"However, we believe it's also right that people at the top of the pay scale volunteer to forego that increase and that's what we'll be doing next year."

Cosla president David O'Neill said: "While the decision is to be admired especially in the current financial situation, whether or not other councils choose to do similar is rightly and properly a matter for them to decide."

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