Expenses: Which Highland councillor claimed the most cash? And who claimed absolutely nothing?

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The wages and expense bill for Highland councillors increased last year – but only by £435.

Figures released by Highland Council reveal that a total of £1,737,104.17 was spent on salaries and expenses in 2014-15.

This is compared to £1,736,668.84 in 2013-14.

Councillors claimed a total of £260,127 in expenses, including travel and accommodation costs.

Councillor Drew Hendry, who stepped down as council leader last month after winning a seat at Westminster, topped the table with a combined salary and expenses of £47,330.79 – down slightly on last year.

He earned a salary of £38,642.03 and claimed expenses of £8,688.76, with nearly half going on mileage (£4,183.20).

The highest expenses claimant was Councillor Deirdre Mackay, East Sutherland and Edderton.

She claimed a total of £13,778.21, including £4,664.90 on mileage, £5,541.50 on accommodation and £1,294.44 on meals.

Her accommodation and meal expenses were much higher than any other councillor.

The next highest total was Councillor Linda Munro, who claimed £9,291.13, including £7,390.80 on mileage expenses. However she lives in Kinbrace in Sutherland and represents the North, West and Central Sutherland, which includes some of the most remote areas of the Highlands.

Neither Mrs Mackay nor Mrs Munro could be reached for comment yesterday.

At the other end of the scale, councillors in Inverness claimed at most a few thousand pounds.

Councillor Ken Gowans was among the highest claimants in the city, with a total of £2,350.17.

This included £981.45 for mileage and £735.54 on telephone costs.

He said last night that the size of his Inverness South ward as one reason for his travel costs as well as regular trips to Edinburgh for Cosla meetings.

He also explained that his high phone was because he used his own phone.

He said: “I use my own phone and broadband and the council pay half of the costs. Some of the others have two lines, a council one and personal one, and obviously my way misses out on the initial cost of installing that which isn’t reflected.

“The point is that you’ve got to be careful with the expenses. You can’t compare like for like.”

For the fifth year, Councillor Alasdair Christie was the lowest claimant – having asked for nothing extra on top of his £24,972 salary as chairman of the council’s education committee.

He said: “I am fortunate enough because I live in the city and can walk to most meetings. I also utilise the webcast technology wherever possible.

“I thing that I get sufficient cover in my salary to cover any other costs.

“It’s just something I choose not to do, it’s a personal position.”

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