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RENEWING LOCAL DEMOCRACY WORKING GROUP REPORT: STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN

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RICHARD KERLEY: 'I am delighted to publish the report of the Renewing Local Democracy working group today. I am gra...
RICHARD KERLEY: 'I am delighted to publish the report of the Renewing Local Democracy working group today. I am grateful to my colleagues on the working group for their excellent contributions and enduring commitment and support over the last year.

'We are confident that our proposals and recommendations take forward the excellent work of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (chaired by Neil McIntosh) and provide a solid platform to support all the changes which are occurring in local government at present.

Wider access

'The majority of our recommendations are aimed at encouraging a

wider range of people to participate as members of local authorities. We consider this part of our remit to be an extremely important one. The overarching purpose of the group has been to consider the renewal of local democracy. Democracy, by its very definition, is a matter that involves the whole population. We are concerned that a significant proportion of the population appears to take little part in the democratic process. Although voting in local elections is not the only way for people to engage in the democratic process, it is of concern that fewer than 6 in 10 electors voted in the local elections in May 1999. We believe that local government is of real importance to the Scottish people and we believe that there is an important job to be done in building connections between the people and the council, and informing people about local democracy.

Remuneration

'Being a councillor is principally about voluntary public service.

We do not believe that remuneration is, or should be, a key factor in

motivating people to take up public service - however, we also strongly believe that inadequate remuneration should not hinder people from becoming a councillor. In our view, the current arrangements, whereby all councillors receive a basic payment of between£5,445 -£6,534, has this effect. We recognise that approximately two-thirds of councillors also receive additional special responsibility allowances. In 1997 the average SRA payment to those councillors was£7,510: taking this together with a basic allowance of, say,£5,500 would bring the total average payment to the two-thirds of councillors in receipt of an SRA to£13,010. We do not believe it is right that these allowances should be such a significant proportion of the total payment for many councillors, nor that they should be paid to such a significant proportion of councillors. In our view, the

current levels of remuneration and system of remuneration are no longer workable.

'Our recommendations on remuneration are intended to:

- make being a councillor a financially viable option for a wide range

of people;

- reflect the responsibilities that most councillors can be expected

to carry out; and the significant additional responsibilities that a few councillors carry.

- be fair - councillors with similar responsibilities should receive

similar remuneration;

- be transparent- the system should be clear and easily understood

Electoral system

'Our remit, taken from the recommendations of the McIntosh

Commission, has been to advise on the most appropriate electoral system taking to account of:

- proportionality

- the councillor-ward link

- fair provision for independents

- allowance for geographical diversity

- a close fit between council wards and natural communities

'Our majority view is that STV best meets the requirements of this

remit. Three members of the group have different views on the issue and their views are included in the report. Our recommendation was reached after detailed consideration and we hope that this chapter of the report sets out the process that we have followed and will help the Executive and the Parliament in its own consideration of these issues.

Numbers of councillors

'We consider that there is a minimum number [19] necessary for the

effective administration of a council. There is a clear requirement for the electorate to be effectively represented and there are a number of other important factors:

- There needs to be sufficient members to share the responsibilities of policy and decision making

- The increased requirement for councils to work in partnership with other bodies requires sufficient councillors to carry out its function

- There must be an appropriate number of members to ensure effective direction to the council and others to scrutinise the activities of the majority

- There needs to be an appropriate number to effectively meet

together, debate and decide the course of action the council will follow

- This needs to be done in an effective and efficient fashion in

relation to the overall scale and budget of the council

- In our view, any council should have an odd number of councillors

All the processes of democracy are set aside if fundamental decisions are made on a cut of cards, as has happened before in Stirling DC - twice.

'We consider that, in general terms, no council should have more

than 53 members: this is the maximum numbers that can be accommodated in an efficient administration; this echoes views expressed to us by councillors and officials. We recognise that in the case of Highland Council a council of 53 members might place exceptional travelling demands on councillors and we consider that up to a further 10 members may exceptionally be necessary for that council.'

The 36 recommendations contained in the report are attached at Annex A.

The remit and membership of the committee are attached at Annex B.

Annex A

THE REPORT OF THE RENEWING LOCAL DEMOCRACY WORKING GROUP: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

We recommend that:

Widening Access

1. Each council should prepare and publish role descriptions which reflect what its members do. (para 15)

2. Each council should carry out a review of its business arrangements to ensure that the majority of councillors can carry out their role effectively on a part time basis. (para 17)

3. Each council should review the impact of its management arrangements on councillors' travelling time and should act to minimise its impact. (para 19)

4. Each council should review the time that members are required to spend in meetings and in preparation for meetings and should take action to maximise the time-effectiveness of meetings. (para 20)

5. Councils and representatives of employers and employees should

discuss how to facilitate the participation of employees on councils. The Executive, with its wider interests in public service, should also be involved in these discussions. Specific practical issues that should be addressed include arrangements for individuals to alter their pattern of work on taking up, and on ceasing, council membership; and arrangements for protecting superannuation contributions. (para 25)

6. The Executive should discuss, with COSLA, and representatives of employers and employees the possibility of establishing an employers' fund which could provide financial compensation to individual employers to assist them in meeting the costs of releasing staff to become councillors. (para 26)

7. COSLA should play a role in encouraging the exchange of information and ideas about effective administrative support for councillors and in providing feedback on the benefits that such ideas can generate. (para 27)

8.

- Councils should evaluate the current level of administrative

support provided to councillors and the impact that this has on the

councillor and should carry out an audit of the benefits that are brought about by new arrangements.

- To assist councils in carrying out this review we have

considered the components of the support package and recommend that the following should be considered for each councillor:

- A dedicated phone line and answerphone or a mobile phone

- A personal computer, printer and modem, together with appropriate software and technical support

- Appropriate working accommodation within the community

- Effective administrative support within the council

- Stationery and postage. (para 28)

9. Councils should review the support that is available to councillors in their ward in order to assist councillors in carrying out their representative duties effectively and efficiently. (para 29)

10. COSLA should have a role in sharing information on the benefits of different types of administrative support to councillors. COSLA and councils should keep this area under review in order to benefit from future developments in both technology and organisational good practice. (para 30)

11. Each council should review its arrangements to facilitate and

encourage active and effective participation by councillors, and potential

councillors, with a disability. (para 31)

12. The Scottish Executive should review legislation that hinders

councils from using information and communication technologies to streamline

the conduct of council business. (para 33)

13. * Councils should prepare a short educational package for people who

have an interest in standing as a councillor.

- There should be information and training for

candidates, by parties, councils and COSLA , aimed at equipping candidates

to stand as councillors.

- There should be systematic training to provide

councillors with a good understanding of local government and their own

role: this should equip them to carry out responsibilities such as chairing

meetings and representing the council.

- There should be training, by councils and COSLA,

tailored to the needs of councillors who are taking on additional

responsibilities, such as a responsibility for a significant area of policy.

(para 34)

14. Councils and representatives of employers and employees and the

Scottish Qualification Authority should consider how to develop mechanisms

to facilitate the development and recognition of transferable skills. (para

35)

15. Each council should set aside a training budget which councillors

can draw on to pay for approved training of their choice. COSLA should

assist councils to exchange information on training and in facilitate

training across councils. (para 36)

16. An integrated communication strategy, involving local authorities,

COSLA, political parties and the Scottish Executive, should be developed to

explain why local government matters - what it does and how it affects

people. (para 38)

17. Councils should review their arrangements and organisation and

consider whether these contain factors that impact on women's participation.

(para 40)

18. COSLA and representatives of people from ethnic minority backgrounds

should draw up an action plan to encourage increased participation on

councils by individuals from an ethnic minority background. (para 41)

19. * Political parties should review their arrangements for selecting

candidates in order to ensure that a diverse and representative range of men

and women is selected in wards where they have a good chance of being

elected, and we encourage them to publicise these arrangements.

- Political parties should consider using a specific

mechanism to increase the number of women selected as candidates.

- Political parties, COSLA, and representatives of

independent councillors should work together on common issues, such as

providing information on local government and the role of councillors, in

order to encourage a diverse and representative range of candidates. (para

43)

20. Councils should consider how they can work with community councils

and other community groups, both to provide, through them, information about

the role and responsibilities of councils and councillors, and to encourage

their members to stand as local authority councillors. (para 44)

21. The age for standing for election should be brought into line with

the voting age - currently 18. (para 45)

Remuneration

22. The remuneration payable to councillors should be£12,000. (para

57)

23. The current remuneration for MSPs is£41,255: the leaders of Glasgow

and Edinburgh should receive the same amount. Other leaders should receive

similar remuneration on a proportional basis. (para 59)

Remuneration for council leaders

£

Edinburgh, Glasgow 41,255

Fife, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire

38,367

Highland 36,304

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee City,

Renfrewshire 34,242

Falkirk, North Ayrshire, West Lothian 32,591

Angus, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Perth & Kinross,

31,354

Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire

Argyll & Bute, Inverclyde 29,291

East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Stirling

27,641

Midlothian, Moray 26,816

Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands,

Shetland Islands 24,753

24. *A small minority of councillors in each council will carry

significant additional responsibilities: their remuneration should reflect

this.

- We recommend that at least one of these will be a

councillor who is not a member of the ruling group and who plays a lead role

in the scrutiny and challenge of policy.

- We consider that the civic head of the council should

receive remuneration that reflects the significant additional

responsibilities of that post. (para 63)

Remuneration for councillors with significant additional

responsibilities

Civic head Other councillors with Lead

scrutiny and

(1 post) significant additional

policy challenge

responsibilities

role (1 post)

£ No* £ £

Edinburgh, Glasgow 30,000 8 25,000 20,000

Fife, North Lanarkshire, 27,900 8 23,250 18,600

South Lanarkshire

Highland 26,400 8 22,000 17,600

Aberdeen City, 24,900 8 20,750 16,600

Aberdeenshire,

Dumfries & Galloway,

Dundee City, Renfrewshire

Falkirk, North Ayrshire, 23,700 6 19,750 15,800

West Lothian

Angus, East Ayrshire, 22,800 6 19,000 15,200

East Dunbartonshire,

Perth & Kinross,

Scottish Borders,

South Ayrshire,

West Dunbartonshire

Argyll & Bute, 21,300 6 17,750 15,000

Inverclyde

East Lothian, 20,100 5 17,000 15,000

East Renfrewshire,

Stirling

Midlothian, Moray 20,000 5 17,000 15,000

Clackmannanshire, 20,000 5 17,000 15,000

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,

Orkney Islands,

Shetland Islands

*maximum no of councillors with remuneration for significant

additional responsibilities.

25. The Scottish Executive should initiate discussions with COSLA,

councils and the UK Government with a view to providing for consistent

taxation arrangements between councillors and other elected representatives.

(para 65)

26. A review of the arrangements for councillors' expenses would

complement our work and we would encourage the Executive, COSLA and councils

to carry out such a review. (para 66)

27. Future increases in levels of remuneration for councillors should be

linked directly to increases in MSPs' remuneration. (para 67)

Electoral System

28. A programme of voter education will be an essential component of the

successful introduction of a new electoral system for local government.

(para 85)

29. STV best meets the requirements of our remit. [Marilyn Livingstone

MSP, Sandra Osborne MP, and Cllr Daphne Sleigh dissented - their separate

comments are included at the end of chapter 5.] (para 95)

30. * It is highly desirable that wards should reflect natural

communities and accordingly, there should be flexibility in ward sizes -

ranging from 3 to 5 member wards - to allow natural communities to be

maintained within wards.

- In sparsely populated parts of Scotland,

exceptionally, wards comprising a minimum of 2 councillors may be

appropriate. (para 96)

31. We would urge the Scottish Executive to take an early decision on

the date of implementation of a new electoral system. (para 101)

Numbers of councillors

32. A council should have no fewer than 19 members. (para 125)

33. * In general terms no council should have more than 53 members.

- In the case of Highland Council a council of 53 members might place

exceptional travelling demands on councillors and we consider that up to a

further 10 members may exceptionally be necessary for that council. (para

126)

34. We suggest the following 'families' of councils: (para 129)

Numbers of Councillors

Council No of councillors

Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Edinburgh, Fife, 49-53

Glasgow, Highland*, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire

Aberdeen, Renfrewshire 39-43

Angus, Argyll and Bute, Dundee, East Ayrshire, Falkirk,

29-33

North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders,

South Ayrshire, West Lothian

Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, East Dunbartonshire,

19-23

East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray,

Orkney, Shetland, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire

*up to a further 10 councillors may be required to take account of

geographical factors.

35. COSLA, councils and the LGBC should develop a protocol to cover

their working relationships in developing proposals for electoral wards.

(para 129)

36. The task of the LGBC, councils, and local communities would be eased

in future if the following procedural requirements were the subject of

direction by Ministers:

- Parity of electorate to be the clear first order consideration, with

divergence from this to be accepted as a means of accommodating well

established natural communities.

- Councils should be required to supply the LGBC with draft and final

paper and electronic copies of electoral registers on an annual basis at no

cost. If appropriate councils should be required to allow the LGBC with

remote networking to electoral registers, again at no charge.

- For the purposes of population/household projection all councils

should be required to adhere to common standards of projection. For

construction this should be full planning consents granted, for demolition

of social or privately owned housing a combination of any proposals in the 5

year capital plan and any proposals for Housing Action Areas or similar.

(para 133)

Annex B

REMIT AND MEMBERSHIP

Remit

The Renewing Local Democracy working group was appointed by Scottish

Ministers with the following remit:

'Building on the recommendations of the McIntosh report, to

consider ways in which council membership could be made attractive to a

wider cross-section of the community, and councils could become more

representative of the make-up of the community.

'To advise on the appropriate numbers of members for each

council, taking account of new management arrangements and the particular

characteristics of city and rural authorities; and on the most appropriate

system of election, taking account of the following criteria -

- proportionality; and the councillor-ward link

- fair provision for independents

- allowance for geographical diversity and

- a close fit between council wards and natural communities

'To advise on an appropriate system of remuneration for

councillors, taking account of available resources.'

Membership

The members of the Renewing Local Democracy working group are:

Richard Kerley (Chairman)

Vikram Lall

Marilyn Livingstone MSP

Neil McIntosh

Cllr Norman Murray

Sandra Osborne MP

Sheila Ritchie

Cllr Daphne Sleigh

Bill Speirs

Maureen Watt

The members of the group come from a wide range of backgrounds, and include

representatives of the four main political parties. We recognise that if

all of our recommendations are to come to fruition there will a need for

legislation, and the political parties will each have a policy position on

such legislation. To a large degree we have set aside such considerations

during our work and have been guided by our remit in arriving at our

recommendations. After extensive discussion we are broadly agreed that the

recommendations being made to ministers are the best and most appropriate

way of meeting the terms of the remit. On the issue of electoral reform,

three members of the group have different views from the majority.

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