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Find out how the vote went when Clarence Valley Councillors voted for a 3.75 per-cent pay increase from July 1. Image: file photo

Councillors get 3.75 per-cent pay rise

Rodney Stevens

Clarence Valley Councillors will get a 3.75 per-cent pay increase from July 1, after a motion not to increase councillor’s fees and allowances was defeated in a 5 to 4 split vote.

On April 29, 2024, the NSW Local Government Remuneration Tribunal determined an increase of 3.75% to mayoral and councillor fees and allowances payable for the 2024/2025 financial year.

In May 2023, councillors voted 6 to 3 to support a motion by Cr Karen Toms to accept a 3 per-cent pay increase, with Cr’s Greg Clancy, Bill Day, Peter Johnstone, Steve Pickering, Ian Tiley, and Karen Toms voting to support the motion, after a motion by Cr Allison Whaites not to increase councillor fees and allowances was defeated 6 to 3.

The Clarence Valley Council CVC officer’s recommendation on the agenda for the May 28 meeting was that:

  1. Council note the determination of the Tribunal.
  2. Fees and allowances payable to the elected members increase by 3.75% for the 2024/2025 financial year.
  3. The Deputy Mayor’s allowance be $7,354 plus 3.75% to be funded from the Mayor’s allowance.

At the May 28 CVC meeting, Cr Bill Day moved a motion that was seconded by Cr Jeff Smith that:

  1. Council note the determination of the Tribunal.
  2. Council does not increase the fees and allowances payable from the amount applied in 2023/2024.

Cr Day said while he usually supports councillor renumeration increases, we must respect the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis on the community and also the legislated freeze on state MP’s and senior public sector executives’ pay increases for 2 years from July 2023.

“These are incredibly difficult times,” he said.

“I’m not doing this because I’m seeking support to run for council, because I won’t be doing that, and to avoid people doing it for that purpose I move this motion,” he said.

Cr Jeff Smith said he made a promise when he campaigned to be elected not to accept councillor pay increases and although he is not running for council in the September 2024 local government elections he would be sticking by his promise.

Cr Allison Whaites spoke against Cr Day’s motion and moved the council officer’s recommendation as a foreshadowed motion.

“It probably shocked everyone because I’m actually voting for a rise,” she said.

“I’m also now looking at the elections coming up in September…I want to entice mums and dads and business owners to actually run for council.”

Cr Greg Clancy said he understood Cr Whaites motivation and was prepared to support either motion.

“We can’t keep undervaluing the position of a councillor,” he said.

“We do not get very much remuneration when it comes down to it, in Queensland they get over $100,000 a year, I don’t think we should be getting that.

“But I think to take a very small increase is not, as some people will put it on Facebook tonight, snouts in the trough.”

Cr Debrah Novak said she had never voted for a councillor pay rise and volunteers were financially rated higher than elected councillors, as councillors are paid $2.75 an hour, but in her role as a volunteer she was rated at $25 an hour.

“If we want a greater diversity of people in the room, in the chamber, then the meetings must be held of a nighttime because so many people are working,” she said.

Cr Steve Pickering said the first time a pay increase came before council he voted against it, and last time he voted in support of an increase, which he would do again.

“It’s always a difficult thing when the state government put this on councillors to decide their own pay…I really hate having to vote for a pay rise,” he said.

“If we want to get quality candidates to nominate to be on council, we have to be able to provide some sort of allowance to make it viable for them to take some time off work.”

Cr Karen Toms said she would love to see a more diverse council with First Nations representatives and younger representatives.

She said CVC sent a motion to the last local government conference in November 2023 to change the Local Government Act, so councillors don’t have to vote on pay increases.

Councillors voted 5 to 4 against Cr Day’s motion, with Cr’s Clancy, Johnstone, Pickering, Toms, Whaites voting against.

Then Cr Whaites foreshadowed motion was seconded by Cr Toms and carried 5 votes to 4, with Cr’s Clancy, Johnstone, Pickering, Toms, Whaites voting in support.

From July 1, CVC Councillors will now get paid $26,512 per year, the Deputy Mayor will receive $34,087, and the Mayor $84,422, increasing council’s annual wage expenditure by $10,989 to $304,093.