Interactive: See which councillors cost taxpayers the most last year and who did not make any claims at all at Highland Council
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Highland Council may want to consider whether it should try and get a new phone contract for councillors after their latest annual expenses were published.
The figures showed members spent a whopping £16,585 on phone calls alone – almost five times more than was spent on accommodation and just £333 shy of the mileage claims.
In total, £38,494 in expenses were claimed by councillors for 2021/22 which is a rise on the year before when Covid and lockdowns limited movement leading to claims of just £26,043.
This year’s tally shows the major decline compared to pre-pandemic levels when expenses tallied £182,784 in 2019/20 and £206,903.54 in 2018/19 as the total salaries and expenses bill came to £1.5 million for 2021/21 – up from £1.4 million the previous year.
Only three councillors claimed more than £2000 while 14 did not submit a claim for any expenses at all – one less than last year.
The convener and Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban topped the list with expenses of £2436 – the majority of which was mileage going to and from the council HQ in Inverness.
The second highest was the now retired Culloden and Ardersier councillor Roddy Balfour who ran up £2132 – including almost £1800 in mileage – and he was followed by Caithness councillor Struan Mackie with £2048, the majority of which was mileage claims.
Though many councillors' mileage claims are understandable given the distances they have to travel, the huge phone bill is more of an outlier with three councillors claiming for phone bills in excess of £600.
The top three are Badenoch and Strathspey councillor John Bruce who claimed for £676, former Dingwall and Seaforth councillor and budget leader Alister Mackinnon sought £616 and Skye councillor and education chairman John Finlayson wanted £602.
Those not claiming anything at all included Liberal Democrat leader Alasdair Christie – his 12th year in a row without making a claim for any remuneration.
The others who also claimed no expenses for the year before are: Andrew Baxter (Fort William and Ardnamurchan, Real Independent), Bill Boyd (Inverness West, SNP), Janet Campbell (Inverness Central, independent), Kirsteen Currie (North, West and Central Sutheralnd, SNP), Derek Louden (Tain and Easter Ross, SNP), Derek MacLeod (Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh, Conservative), Ron MacWilliam (Inverness Ness-side, SNP), Niall McLean (Fort William and Ardnamurchan, SNP), Pauline Munro (Cromarty Firth, independent), Alasdair Rhind (Tain and Easter Ross, independent), Carolyn Wilson (Cromarty Firth, independent), Laurie Fraser (Nairn and Cawdor) and the late George Cruickshank (Aird and Loch Ness).