Councillors across Victoria have been awarded backdated payrises roughly seven times more than their local ratepayers in the inaugural decision by the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal.
State MPs handed Councillor pay over to the Tribunal when the passed the new Local Government Act 2020.
On the same day the Legislative Council refused to publicise rate waivers for households with stressful rate bills, the Tribunal handed down 14% pay rises for Councillors across
And that’s the lowest of the rises.
Mayors will get payrises of 18% and new Deputy Mayors will enjoy increases of up to 89% more than than their previous pay as mere Councillors.
And remember, for most Councillors this is their second job. (At Maribyrnong, my local Council, two Councillors are actually employed at another Council, so they're each collecting two ratepayer-funded incomes.)
In its reasons, the Tribunal noted that community groups were strongly opposed to any increases but sided with Councillors:
“Most Council members who responded to the Tribunal’s questionnaire considered that the existing allowance values were too low. On the other hand, submissions from community groups representing the interests of ratepayers and from members of the public commented strongly that the values of the allowance should not be increased.
The Tribunal considers that the significant contribution of Council members to local government is not being adequately recognised in the current value of the amount of the allowance payable to them. In particular, the Tribunal decided that an increase in the value of the allowance is justified given:
• increases in the scope and complexity of Council members’ roles since the last comprehensive allowances review in 2007-08
• high levels of community expectations placed on Council members to represent, and respond to, the interests of members of their municipal community
• evidence presented by stakeholders that the role of a Council member is more akin to a ‘job’ than purely voluntary in nature, especially for the role of Mayor”
Ratepayers Victoria finds it ironic that the Tribunal should place weight on ‘community expectations’ of Council members to represent them and respond to their interests, and STILL gave Councillors a pay rise.
Given the Local Government Act expressly forbids Councillors from any operational roles and prevents them from directing staff or the CEO there are no practical requirements of Councillors in relation to the actual services Councils provide to residents.
And increasing complaints about skyrocketing rates is evidence that Councillors cannot or will not, contain rate increases by either improving Council efficiency or cutting Council costs.
Many ratepayers may think Councillors, MPs and the Tribunal are out of touch. I think they are very closely in touch – with themselves. There’s a very rude word for that.
Verity Webb – RPV committee member.
photo credit - Caravaggio's oil panting of Narcissus: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Rome.