A RESIGNING councillor has said working at HMP Barlinnie was “nicer” than her time in local government, as she demanded a fairer deal for councillors.

Kim Long, who will step down as a councillor at the upcoming local elections, has said local government representatives are effectively paid less than the living wage and have little real power.

The current state of affairs in Glasgow, where Long represented Dennistoun for the Greens, has seen 34% of all female councillors choose not to stand for re-election this year.

Long says this is because the poor conditions endured by councillors put off younger people and especially women – more likely to have caring responsibilities than their male counterparts.

Along with councillors from across the political spectrum, Long put forward a motion at the last full meeting of the council before the election to highlight the “sewer” of local government which puts women off staying involved in council politics.

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Despite moments of pride, such as helping a constituent facing deportation remain in the country and helping others suffering from domestic abuse or housing problems, Long said she can no longer tolerate the “toxic culture” of local politics.

Asking questions of the administration, she said, resulted in reactions “like I’d just punched somebody’s mother”.

She said that collaborative approaches were “the exception” and that “tribal politics” were a barrier to solving local issues.

“In workplaces I have been before I was elected, it is completely normal that you work as a team, you give credit to people for their ideas, that you don’t try and undermine people – all of these behaviours, that are totally normal in politics, are really alien in a modern workplace,” Long added.

“Having worked in Barlinnie, that was much nicer.”

The National: Interior of HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow

Long works two jobs to make ends meet as the sole breadwinner in her home – but feels the demands put on her mean she does neither “particularly well”.

A decent wage that reflects the work put in by councillors is the top of her priority list for improving local government – believing it would encourage a far more diverse cohort of representatives that “look like” the communities they serve.

“I have to work two jobs, which I hate and I don’t think I can do either of them particularly well which is really frustrating,” she said.

Prior to her current working arrangement, she was a carer for her grandmother who now lives in a care home.

Long added: “There needs to be a wage that is competitive – at minimum a living wage.

“The single biggest barrier to gender balance in local councils is the pay.

“Currently we’re on £18,500 and there was a Cosla survey that showed on average Scottish councillors were working 37 hours per week, so when you do the maths, we’re not earning a living wage.”

The real living wage is £9.90 per hour. By Long’s calculations, most councillors are making £9.61 per hour – which is above the legal minimum wage.

Low wages combined with a heavy workload are more than enough to put people off entering local politics, especially women and people from underrepresented backgrounds – something acknowledged by Glasgow City Council.

Long – a member of the LGBT community – said asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexuality were able to open up to her.

And one of her constituents, a woman from Africa not fluent in English, could have been helped faster, Long believes, had more diverse staff been able to intervene.

She said: “She had gone to the doctor and had to invent all of these things because she actually wanted to talk about her sexual health but her interpreter was a friend of her husbands, so she couldn’t.”

But Long believes the problems with Scotland’s councils run deeper than individual pay and conditions.

Scotland was called the most centralised country in Europe by a Cosla report in 2014 and large council areas having little real power was identified as a key part of this.

“We’re not local and we don’t really have any authority either,” said Long.

“We’re at the end of the decision train, we’re just enacting other people’s policies a lot of the time.

“Local government needs to have the power to make decisions.”

Glasgow City Council said it is not responsible for the pay of councillors, as this lies with the Scottish Government.

A spokesman added: “We recognise that terms and conditions – including pay and allowances – may limit the accessibility of elected office and, in turn, narrow diversity and representation. The council has also welcomed the recent commitment by the Scottish Government and Cosla to an independent review.

“Locally, the council is looking at how initiatives like hybrid working can address problems.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said ministers had, along with Cosla, committed to a review of councillor pay which would “be undertaken at pace”.

They added: “The review will commence as soon as possible after the forthcoming local government elections to ensure that terms and conditions truly reflect the responsibilities of the 21st-century councillor.”

The Scottish Government said it recognised poor pay was a barrier to increasing diversity on councils.