From the Newsroom

Councillors forego superannuation payments

Geoff Helisma


All of Clarence Valley’s councillors have told the Independent that they have declined the opportunity to receive superannuation payments.

In March 2021, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) was “celebrating the proposed introduction of superannuation for mayors and councillors from [July] 2022 as a major step forward”.

At the March 22, 2022, Clarence valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors Johnstone, Tiley, Clancy, Toms and Pickering supported councillors having the option to be paid superannuation; councillors Smith, Whaites and Novak voted against “payment of the superannuation contributions … additional to the annual fee paid to elected members”; Cr Day was absent due to illness.

Then LGNSW president Linda Scott said LGNSW member councils had “advocated fiercely for fair superannuation”, and that the NSW Government’s decision would “enable more people to consider running to be a mayor or councillor”.

“LGNSW has consistently argued that mayors and councillors should be entitled to receive superannuation, in line with every other Australian employee at work,” she said.

“For too long people considering running for elected office in local government have been unable to do so unless they were independently wealthy.”

At the March CVC meeting, some councillors didn’t agree (councillors Smith, Whaites and Novak) that superannuation was necessary to “enable more people to consider running” for council, however, all nine councillors have declined to accept the payment.

The Independent emailed each of the councillors, pointing out that some councillors had indicated that being paid was not necessarily their motivation to run for council and/or that superannuation was an unnecessary burden on ratepayers.

At the March CVC meeting, Cr Pickering said that “councillors always have an opportunity of saying ‘no’ to remuneration”, however, upon asking councillors how much of the $24,810 pa councillor allowance they were receiving, Cr Peter Johnstone cited Section 248 of the Local Government Act, writing that it was his “understanding … that the councillor allowance has to be paid equally to all councillors … there are no opt outs”.

Consequently, all councillors are being paid a councillor allowance, however, the Office of Local Government councillor handbook does state, “Councillors can request that they are paid below the fee fixed by the Tribunal if the full fee will adversely affect their entitlement to a pension, benefit or other allowance.”

In her response, Cr Allison Whaites wrote that she had “accepted the $24,810 allowance”.

“However, I donate over $10,000 a year to local charities, businesses, local events, and sports teams, [and] I will be contributing some of the council allowance towards [that],” she wrote.

Historically, Clarence Valley’s councillors rejected pay increases six times in a row, from 2014 to 2019, but in July 2020 councillors voted to increase their allowance from $17,490 per annum to $24,320.

This jump in payments was adopted following the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal’s re-categorisation of NSW councils “for the purpose of remuneration determinations” – CVC’s category changed from ‘Regional Rural’, to a new category, ‘Regional Centre’.

Re-elected councillors Clancy and Novak voted against adopting the maximum allowance; Cr Toms voted in favour.

In June 2021, councillors accepted the tribunal’s advocation of a two per cent increase, from $24,320 to the current $24,810 pa allowance; councillors Clancy and Novak were opposed, Cr Toms in favour.

Councillors’ and management staff’s March 2022 quarterly disclosures of interest updates are available for viewing on CVC’s website.