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Highland Council mystery over pay settlements

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Highland Council chiefs have been “unable” to reveal the extent of a bill for equal pay claims.

The demands follow a landmark UK Supreme Court ruling that aimed to guarantee gender parity.

The independent-led minority administration insists the situation is under control while opposition leaders are furious about the lack of a figure.

Council leader Margaret Davidson has confirmed negotiations are continuing to settle final claims.

Historically, the council settled potential liability with employees in 2006, amounting to £6.3million. Two years later, a further settlement of £2.9million was agreed and in 2011, a further settlement cost £3.1million.

A new pay scheme was introduced in 2009 to reduce the gender pay gap. Claims from 1,200 other staff are currently being dealt with.

The council will defend those claims at a tribunal later this year or in early 2017.

Senior officers insist the authority has coped with the complex challenge of equal pay issues for the past decade, giving it a head start on several other local authorities that have ended up with additional wage bills of up to £100million.

Councillor Davidson said: “The cost of any further settlement has not been included in our budget and will be a budget pressure but given the number of claims already settled this is significantly lower than some of the costs now facing other councils.”

SNP opposition group deputy leader Richard Laird said: “We don’t know the final cost and potentially legitimate claims have still not been settled, which is a disgrace.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We’ve given councils additional time to plan for the funding of equal pay claims and to use capital receipts to fund the cost. It’s up to councils to manage their resources effectively.”

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