Hawick’s councillors cost taxpayer £127,000 last year, report reveals

Watson McAteer was Hawick's cheapest councillor last year, but his salary will go up this year now he is on Scottish Borders Council's executive.
Watson McAteer was Hawick's cheapest councillor last year, but his salary will go up this year now he is on Scottish Borders Council's executive.

Hawick’s councillors cost taxpayers more than £127,000 last financial year, figures out this week reveal.

The annual list of the combined salary, travel, telephone and broadband costs incurred by our elected representatives was revealed at a special meeting of Scottish Borders Council today.

Davie Paterson was Hawick's most expensive councillor last year, but his salary is set to plummet this year as he is no longer an executive member.

Davie Paterson was Hawick's most expensive councillor last year, but his salary is set to plummet this year as he is no longer an executive member.

It includes a full breakdown of what our six councillors in the Hawick and Denholm and Hawick and Hermitage wards earned and claimed over that period.

It reveals that their salaries and expenses last year amounted to £127,565.

Across the authority as a whole, a total of £772,974 was paid to members, including total claims of £44,952 for travel costs and £49,347 for telephone and ICT bills.

The varying amounts paid to councillors is explained by some having executive roles.

The highest amount paid out in the two Hawick wards over the financial year – £26,792 – was to Hawick and Hermitage’s Davie Paterson.

That included his basic allowance of £16,893 and an extra payment for his responsibility as executive member for environmental services, a role he no longer holds.

The second highest claimant, picking up a total of £26,069, was former Hawick and Hermitage representative Ron Smith, paid an additional responsibility allowance for his role as executive member for planning and environment.

The lowest paid of the town’s councillors last year was Watson McAteer, now taking Mr Smith’s seat for Hawick and Hermitage after switching from the other Hawick ward.

Mr McAteer, recently appointed as Hawick’s honorary provost, received only the basic allowance of £16,893, but he will be paid more this coming year as he takes on greater responsibilities, including chairing the council’s police, fire and rescue and safer communities board.

He said: “I purposely did not claim any travel expenses while I was not part of the administration, being content to fund my ward-related activity from my council salary. I believe that is what I am paid to do.

“The position will be different this year as a result of increased council-driven meetings and external meetings linked to my new portfolio and various committee functions.

“It is purely a choices thing, and I have no concerns with those that claim expenses legitimately incurred.”

Fellow independent Mr Paterson said: “Being a portfolio holder, I had to go to a lot of areas in the Borders and to executive meetings with directors.

“If you look at what I claimed for travel allowance, that is money that I had to pay out first and was then reimbursed.

“I have regular surgeries in both Hawick and Newcastleton, and ICT costs will be included in the advertising for surgeries, and when I get papers and councillors’ calling cards from Scottish Borders Council, that is also included in that figure.

“Some councillors may not want to claim mileage. That is entirely up to them. If you look at the end of next year, my mileage will obviously be down because I am not a portfolio holder.”

Former Hawick and Denholm councillor Arthur Cranston picked up £19,135, ward colleague Stuart Marshall got £18,249 and Hawick and Hermitage’s George Turnbull, now executive member for finance, was paid £20,427.

Councillors yesterday approved an increase in their flat-rate salary to £16,927.

Both now being executive members, Mr McAteer and Mr Turnbull will be paid £22,240 for the coming year. Mr Marshall will be paid £18,450 for his extra duties as chairman of the new locality committee for Teviot and Liddlesdale.