As council squanders money, new top jobs deserve close scrutiny

by Colin Campbell

THE announcement last week that Highland Council intend to hire two new top officials at a combined salary of £216,000 followed a familiar trajectory.

First came the announcement.

Then came internal and external criticism of the salaries involved and whether these payouts were justified and whether these new officials were needed at all.

And now one of them, that of a deputy chief executive, has been “paused”, pending a full discussion of the issue at a council meeting in September.

Some councillors have already made their feelings clear and will strongly oppose the arrival of another very high earner.

These kind of appointments have been contentious each and every time they’ve arisen.

They feed directly into the “too many chiefs not enough Indians” view held by many members of the public.

The council needs people in the most senior supervisory positions to keep the show on the road. And a great deal of responsibility goes with at least some of these high salaries.

But when the council are pleading poverty as never before there’s no question that these roles should be subjected to the closest scrutiny.

At a time when they’re intent on squandering money on indefensible vanity vandalism projects like the Gathering Place the fact is public sympathy for them is in very short supply.

The revelation six years ago that more than 1,000 council employees were earning over £40,000 a year has not been forgotten and still hangs like a shadow over the local authority.

Council leader Margaret Davidson and chief executive Donna Manson would be doing themselves a favour if they released a pertinent update on how much that has changed.

At least they would, unless, heaven help us, that scandalously bloated figure has actually gone up.

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