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Councillors reject pay increase

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley’s councillors have declined their right to a pay rise for the fifth year running; however, differing opinions were expressed at the June 26 council meeting.

When the final vote was taken, only Cr Andrew Baker opposed Cr Jason Kingsley’s motion, seconded by Cr Peter Ellem – Cr Debrah Novak was absent.

Councillor Greg Clancy said “people in the community need to understand that the amount of effort councillors put in is for a small amount of remuneration”.

Councillor Baker said “some people are never happy with what we do”.
“It seems as though this is the middle of where councillors should be paid….
“We all hide the amount of work we do, especially you Mr Mayor [Jim Simmons].
“I have no hesitation to say I don’t agree with withholding the value of councillors down to the lowest common denominator.”
Councillor Baker introduced an amendment to increase the mayor’s and deputy mayor’s payments above the base all councillors receive, to what was listed in the budget that went on exhibition: $38,145 and $3,008 respectively.

Councillor Karen Toms said “councillors do put a lot of work and effort [into] a thankless job”.
“It takes a lot of reading, a lot of understanding, a lot of learning, a lot of difficult decisions, and you certainly don’t do it for $17,490 a year,” she said.
“I think councillors should be paid a lot more in this state, but the fact is they’re not and I know that Local Government NSW is continually lobbying the government about that matter.
“I think it sends the wrong message when councillors do decline these small increases per year….”
Councillor Toms said the special rate variation (SRV) that councillors have implemented will make “things tight for a lot of disadvantaged in our community, so for that reason I’ll be supporting Cr Kingsley’s motion today; for only that reason.”
“I want to show ratepayers that we are not in this for the money; in fact, I believe it actually costs some of us money to be a councillor.”

The mayor, Jim Simmons, said: “We all get on with our work and we do it; I’m happy with the amount of the current allowance.”

Councillor Arthur Lysaught said of the mayor’s duties: “It’s a full time job, it’s not something you do on a casual basis … it’s only appropriate the person at the top of the tree for such a big organisation should receive reasonable recompense”.

Councillor Peter Ellem said it would not be “a good look” for the mayor to be paid the extra money while at the same time levying the SRV on ratepayers.

The amendment was put and lost on the casting vote of the mayor, who said it was now five years since any increases had been approved.

Councillors Baker, Clancy, Lysaught and Toms voted to increase the payments; councillors Simmons, Williamson, Ellem and Kingsley were opposed.

On his motion to not increase councillor, mayor or deputy mayor payments, Cr Kingsley said he “endorsed some of the comments of councillors Baker, Toms, [Lysaught] and Clancy,” however, he, too, said it would send the wrong message if councillors took a pay increase while implementing the SRV.

“We need to lead by example,” he said.

Councillors will each receive $17,490 per annum, plus an additional amount to the mayor of $35,225 per annum and an additional amount to the deputy mayor of $2,935, which is a portion of the overall mayoral allowance.