JUST over £10,000 in expenses was claimed by Argyll and Bute councillors in the 2020/21 financial year – less than 10 per cent of what was claimed the year before.

The amount paid out to the authority’s councillors had already fallen for four years on the trot before the Covid-19 pandemic led to meetings being staged remotely.

That, in turn, led to significantly less mileage being claimed, although the bulk of the £10,289 in the year’s expenses was for miles covered on council business.

An additional £7,166 was paid out by the council for telephone and ICT expenses, which the authority meets directly. Including salaries, councillors were paid more than £727,000 in 2020/21.

Kintyre and the Islands Liberal Democrat councillor Robin Currie, who became the authority’s new leader in September, claimed the most with £2,405.

As well as £594 in mileage, he was also awarded £851 to cover ferry fares from his home on Islay, and £890 for overnight accommodation.

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In addition to being leader, Councillor Currie is also chair of the policy and resources committee and environment, development and infrastructure committee. He also sits on committees operated by national bodies.

His predecessor as leader, Helensburgh Central Liberal Democrat councillor Aileen Morton, claimed the next most with £1,152, virtually all of which was mileage.

Her fellow Helensburgh Central councillor, Conservative Gary Mulvaney, claimed £665, all of it mileage, in his role as the council’s deputy leader.

Councillor David Kinniburgh (Conservative, Helensburgh and Lomond South), who became the area’s Provost in November, claimed £265, all of which was mileage.

A number of councillors were paid no expenses at all, other than the telephone and ICT expenses.

The total of expenses paid out, after deduction of phone and ICT costs, is a small fraction of the £104,925 which was claimed by councillors in 2019/20. The figure was £116,892 in 2018/19, and £129,772 in the previous financial year.

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Executive director Douglas Hendry said: “All meetings of the council, committees and members’ seminars and development sessions were held on a virtual platform during the 20/21 financial year.

“This has been in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw the council take steps to reduce the risk for its members, staff and citizens, while ensuring the authority remained able to continue to exercise its essential functions.

“Additional training was undertaken by elected members in relation to the technology, knowledge and skills necessary to support the transition to a virtual environment.”

A return to in-person meetings of the council, or potential hybrid arrangements, continues to be explored by the authority with a further update due in November.