The total amount paid out on Councillors’ salaries and expenses is up by more than £22,000 from the year before according to new figures.
In total £665,326, or just under two thirds of a million pounds, was the spend on Councillors’ salaries and costs for the year 2012/13 - with £143,849 going on expenses such as travel and subsistence.
Telephone and Information and Communications Technology, including members being provided with iPads, added up to more than £17,000.
Salaries ranged from between £14,600 (a basic Councillors’ pay) to up to £26,600 (Council Leader’s pay).
Travel costs varied between Councillors. Some did not claiming anything back for car/van millage or other travel (Cllr Iain Morrison who lives in Barvas, Cllr Zena Stewart who lives in Point and two Stornoway Councillors Iain Macaulay and Iain Mackenzie).
While for some travel expenses made up the majority of their spend (particularly those outwith with Lewis and Harris).
The biggest spend was Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of the Comhairle, whose salary and expenses total added up to £44,039 for the last year. More than £11,000 of which fell into the section ‘other travel’.
He was followed by Cllr Norman Macdonald, Comhairle Convenor, whose total added up to just over £40,000 - £8,000 of which also came under ‘other travel’.
A Comhairle spokesperson said: “The Leader, Convener and Chairs tend to attend more meetings both within the Islands and on the mainland.”
He added: “Also Members travelling from Uist and Barra will have more expenditure on air travel, subsistence and so on, than a Lewis Councillor because the majority of Council meetings are held in Stornoway.”
Speaking about the increase in the cost of councillors the spokesperson said: “The reason for the increase in expenses this year than last is because of the election of new councillors.” He said the one off payment of equipment pushed up the figures.
Another reason given for the increase in councillor spend was put down to the removal of the Air Discount Scheme for business.
The Comhairle spokesperson said: “The cost of air travel is up.” He said that it is essential for Councillors to travel - and explained that because of the elections last year additional training and meetings took place.
He continued: “The expenses claims are checked by a member of staff within the Chief Executive’s Department and certified for payment by the Head of Executive Office...
“Salaries and expenses are part of the price of local government democracy. It is the price to be paid if the Comhairle is to be properly represented at meetings throughout the islands and the mainland.
“There is a real geographical disadvantage for the islands compared to mainland authorities in being represented at mainland meetings.”
Cllr Iain Morrison, who resides in Barvas on the Westside of Lewis, is one councillor not to have claimed any expenses for car/van mileage, other travel, or subsistence.
He said: “I didn’t come here [to the Comhairle] for the money. As far as I’m concerned my salary covers any expenses I have.”
He continued: “There are some of the Councillors who have to travel, but on the island I don’t see the need [to claim].What I get paid does me.”