Moray Council’s Conservative councillors have accused the local authority’s leader of treating public cash as “private fund” after giving extra wages to an unnamed committee vice-chair.
Opposition councillors Frank Brown and Tim Eagle hit out at Graham Leadbitter for giving an extra £4,370 as part of senior councillor payments to an SNP colleague on a committee not currently operating.
The extra funds were originally earmarked for Amy Taylor as a committee chairwoman before she resigned from the SNP administration and chair roles in September for “personal reasons.”
Council accounts noted m o s t c o u n c i l l o r s earn £17,470 a year and those with greater responsibility like committee chairs get £21,840.
Last night, Mr Eagle, Moray Tory group leader, said he was “appalled” Mr Leadbitter seemed to have ignored officials’ advice on the payment, something Mr Leadbitter denies.
He added: “It is vitally important the public has faith that extra public money is awarded to elected members on the basis of them taking on extra work.
“It should not be treated as if it is some kind of private fund to be handed
out at the discretion of the leader of the council to whoever he sees fit.
“Frankly, I am appalled to hear that despite guidance from senior officers, the leader of the SNP has sought to financially benefit a member of his own group by increasing the allowances of a member who under the current model has no role that merits an extra payment.
“Moray has struggled for years to get the funding to run core services so every penny really does count.”
However, yesterday Mr Leadbitter labelled it a “ridiculous smear attempt”, stating: “I’m sure it will be no surprise that councillors with greater responsibilities and time commitments can b e p a i d s p e c i a l responsibility allowances.
“Mr Eagle receives a special responsibility allowance and he does not chair a committee.
“The payment of special responsibility allowances reflects workloads and responsibilities and I am absolutely clear on the substantial amount of work that all administration councillors put in.
“The allocation of allowances has always been a matter for the council’s administration and it is simply not true officers advised against the allocation of this allowance.”