Underpaid councillors want parity
NSW councillors are the lowest paid local government representatives in the country according to Murray River Council mayor Chris Bilkey. But hopefully not for long. Cr Bilkey said council would demand the gap is closed at the Local Government NSW conference.
The disparity in NSW councillors’ fees and those received by councillors in Victoria in particular will form the basis of a motion the council will put to the conference in Albury from October 21 to 23.
Cr Bilkey said increased NSW fees would also honour the additional work being done, particularly those in merged councils like Murray River.
‘‘In our case (following the merger to Murray Shire and Wakool Shire to form Murray River), the size of our shire has tripled,’’ Cr Bilkey said.
‘‘Councillors are travelling more to attend meetings, and it means they are away from their homes a lot longer.
‘‘All these things mean councillors are working longer hours.
‘‘Councillors across NSW are the lowest paid of any local government group in Australia — Victoria is about two times what we get, and in some cases more — there has to be uniformity across the states.’’
Annual fees for NSW rural councillors such as Murray River are a maximum of $11,860 per councillor, with a maximum additional $25,880 for the mayor.
Victorian councillors in similarly rated councils are allowed a maximum fee of $20,231 per councillor and mayors can earn up to $60,442 a year.
Cr Bilkey said closing the gap would also go a long way to securing effective councils of the future.
‘‘If we want to build healthy councils in the future, we need to attract people with strong entrepreneurial and business skills,’’ Cr Bilkey said.
‘‘They are not going to be attracted if they are going to be losing income to be a councillor.
‘‘The fee is a huge disincentive to serve the community as a councillor, and we need to remove that disincentive and better reward our councillors.’’
Cr Bilkey said the annual LGNSW conference is an opportunity to raise riverineherald.com.au issues of importance to local communities and to vote on new policies for change.
‘‘We need to look at how we can best strengthen the local government sector in New South Wales and improve services and conditions for local communities,’’ he said.
‘‘In putting forward our motions we are looking towards improving on the delivery of infrastructure and services, and we are calling on all spheres of government to work in partnership if we are to meet the ongoing challenges before us.’’