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Councillors reject pay rise

Clarence Valley’s councillors will not have their fees increased in line with the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal’s determination.
At last week’s council meeting, councillors voted 6-3 (councillors Baker, Toms and McKenna voted against the decision) to retain, for the 2016/17 year, the same level of fees paid to councillors for the 2015/16 financial year: $17,490 per annum, plus an additional amount for the mayor of $35,225 per annum and an additional amount for the deputy mayor of $2,935.
Councillors have remained on the same fee scale since 2013/14.
Councillor Andrew Baker said he was in favour of an increasing the fees to amounts above the motion that was adopted.
The tribunal determined that fees for councillors in the Regional Rural category can range from $8,550 to $18,840 for councillors, with an additional fee for the mayor of between $18,180 and $41,090 – the deputy mayor’s additional fee is calculated as 4/52 deduction from the fee paid to the mayor.
Councillor Baker said the councillors were “technically” voting for “remuneration of the next council”.
“We should be doing all we can to make the position attractive to potential candidates,” he said.
“I’m always of a view … if you want good people you should be prepared to offer them … good money and then demand performance in line with that.”
Councillor Karen Toms held a similar view. She said she was sure that her fellow councillors were not doing it for the money, however, “the fee doesn’t cover the hours” that councillors work.
She challenged them to donate their “wages to a good cause” if they were “really serious” about the fee not being a motivation to be a councillor.
“You often hear amongst councillors all over the state, complaints about the money that’s involved, and I can assure you none of us sitting here or in any councils that I’m aware of do it for the money,” she said.
“…I just don’t think it sets an example to show the government that councillors are worth more than the small amount that they’re given.”
Councillor Sue Hughes said councillors should lead by example, because “if we are going to the ratepayers shortly and asking them for an increase in rates, I think it’s only fair”, that the proposed increase is rejected.
Councillor Jim Simmons said he accepted Cr Baker’s argument that the increase would only be relevant to the current council for two and a half months.
He referred to the proposed special rate variation increases included in the long financial plan, a 5.44 per cent increase for each of seven years from 2017/18 to 2023/24.
“It may be a small rate increase for 2016-17,” he said; “…however, as leaders, we need to lead by example.”
Councillor Jason Kingsley, who proposed the motion, said it was “hypocritical [for councillors to] say it’s not about the money but are prepared to take the money”.
“I couldn’t sit here in good conscience and ask for a pay rise and ask the ratepayers to pay more, or [accept] a reduction in services,” he said.
He rejected the idea of councillors taking the opportunity to increase their fees, and said: “If a couple of $1,000 is going to make [the job] more attractive … well, goodness me?”