From the Newsroom

Clarence councillors vote 6-3 against pay rise

Rodney Stevens


Clarence Valley councillors have voted 6-3 not to accept a two per-cent pay rise with several expressing their frustration at being put in the position of having to determine their own remuneration.

The Local Government Remuneration Tribunal LGRT determined a 2 per-cent increase to mayoral and councillor fees for the 2022/2023 financial year from July 1.

Council staff recommended the (1) council note the tribunal recommendation and increase fees payable by 2 per-cent, with the Deputy Mayor’s allowance of $7,140 plus 2 per-cent to be funded from the Mayor’s allowance.

The tribunal classified Clarence Valley Council as a Regional Centre in 2020, which would see councillors pay rise by $496 from $24,810 to $25,306, the Deputy Mayor from $31,950 to $32,588 and the Mayor $78,950 to $80,529, under the 2 per-cent increase.

This would see council’s annual total ratepayer funded remuneration for councillors, Deputy Mayor and Mayor rise from $284,970 to $290,259, an increase of $5,589.00.

Staff also gave councillors two alternative options; (2) to adopt an increase in fees payable to the maximum amount for a Regional Centre (slightly higher than 2 per-cent) or (3) not to increase fees payable from 2021/2022.

At the June 28 council meeting Cr Allison Waites moved a motion that “fees payable to the elected members not increase from the amount adopted in 2021 to 2022(financial year).”

“The Deputy Mayors allowance remains the amount adopted in 2021/2022,” Cr Waites said.

Cr Debrah Novak seconded Cr Waites motion.

Cr Waites called on all councillors to support her motion to not adopt the increase.

“As a councillor we were voted in to do a job for our community, be a voice and be an advocate,” she said.

“Not to, almost every meeting, to take money or wanting superannuation.”

Cr Novak said “there is a saying that good leaders eat last”

“We need to be seen to be doing the right thing…Cr Waites is 100 per-cent correct, our community is hurting in a lot of ways,” she said.

“We as the civic leaders of our community…we need to be alongside our community, and I believe supporting the tribunal determination is not the right thing to do.”

Cr Steve Pickering then suggested social media had been used by a councillor for ‘self-gratification’ (by posting their stance against a pay rise).

“I’m disappointed in lies being spread and untruths being spread for some sort of self-gratification, “he said.

“I will be voting for the motion; I just don’t like the way that it came about.”

Councillors were concerned about a Facebook post containing some inaccurate claims about their votes for increases in pay. 

Cr Jeff Smith spoke in support of Cr Waites motion.

“We as civic leaders need to set an example…we need to save money, we need to save ratepayers money,” he said. 

“Here’s a small but important start and for what it’s worth, a leadership moment that we can all do.”

Speaking against Cr Waites’ motion, Cr Bill Day said, like Cr Pickering and other councillors he was “deeply offended by how these issues have been used on Facebook.”

“I believe that councillors should not be placed in this position,” he said.

“I believe that the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal determinations should be automatic.

“This should be decided by the remuneration tribunal, not by councillors.”

Cr Peter Johnstone supported Cr Waites’ motion but said he had been very disappointed by some of the things the community had picked up off Facebook.

He stressed that the council had not voted on any pay increases and “had not cost” ratepayers any more since they were elected.

“It would be right, it would be correct for us to take this extra amount, but I don’t think it would be best, at the moment,” he said.

“Because, as other people have pointed out, our local community are hurting…so I will be voting in favour of this motion.”

Deputy Mayor, Cr Greg Clancy spoke against the motion, stating the allowance they receive compared to professional positions and Queensland councillors was minimal.

“If we weren’t spending as much time as we councillors do, I would say we wouldn’t deserve the allowance we get,” he said.

“The Mayor’s job is basically full-time, the Deputy Mayor’s job isn’t quite full time and the other councillors’ jobs are close to being full time too.”

Cr Clancy said he supported councillor Day’s suggestion that tribunal determinations should be automatically applied.

Speaking in support of the motion, Cr Karen Toms said she was disappointed people in the community thought councillors were not worthy of the money they got.

“I think it’s wrong, that we are put in a position where we have to decide, because of the local government act section 248 and 249 that it has to come to council and be decided upon,” she said.

“I think we should be putting in a motion to the Local Government Conference about having a look at that, having a broader look at that section of the act and taking it away.”

Councillors Whaites, Pickering, Johnstone, Toms, Novak and Smith all voted not to accept the 2 per-cent pay rise.

Mayor Ian Tiley declared the motion carried, six votes to three (Cr Clancy, Day, Tiley).