Councillors have voted to receive a pay rise at the Wingecarribee Shire Council meeting on July 8.
Read also: Rates set to increase in council budget
The increase to councillors stipends and mayoral allowance is due to a Local Government Area reclassification.
Danielle Lidgard explained that the reclassification was because the shire had a minimum population of 40,000 people.
"Wingecarribee Shire Council has previously been allocated as a regional rural category," she said.
"We have now been allocated to a new category which is regional centre along with 23 councils such as Shellhabour, Shoalhaven and Wollondilly."
Wingecarribee Shire Council's chief finance officer Richard Mooney said that the 2020/2021 budget that had been adopted in the same July 8 meeting had provided proposed 2.5 percent increase.
"Anything beyond a 2.5 percent increase on current remuneration or councillor fees will require a budget adjustment at the next quarterly review," he said.
Councillor Graham Andrews moved a recommendation to approve payment of maximum fees as determined by the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal for the period of July 1 2020 to June 30 2021.
Councillor Ian Scandrett moved an amendment that the fees for councillors and mayor remain unchanged from the 2019/2020 year.
Councillor Graham McLaughlin spoke in favour of the recommendation to increase councillor stipends.
"I think it's important that people understand the amount of work that is required by someone to give up a day every week," he said.
"I hope that one day in the future there will be younger people, people of working age, that can participate in giving up time and not be financially disadvantaged.
"This is not us calling this, this is the tribunal saying we are entitled to it. The tribunal usually don't over pay people.
"We are a level of government that doesn't get any superannuation, and is at the call of this community to take phone calls, to investigate, to look and to advocate.
"The amount of time someone, a younger person, a woman who might have to put her children in to childcare, I think it is only reasonable that a certain stipend be allowed to be paid to councillors."
Cr McLaughlin also said that he thought that anyone who denied councillors should be paid a reasonable amount of money was "grandstanding".
"I'll tell you what, I don't mind not taking it for myself but I am thinking of the future," he said.
"I'm thinking of the people who will put their hand up at the next election, that will put their hand up with the idea that they can afford to take a day out of their working life.
"We do work hard for this community and I think it is only reasonable that this allowance is allowed to be taken."
Councillor Ken Halstead spoke against the recommendation and for the amendment.
"You all full well know my position and that has been to leave things as they each year that I've been on this council and that's not politics, that's exactly what I want to do," he said.
"For years I have said that I don't want a rise.
"In any case, whatever you decide, I'll be going down the same route as I have in the past and that's not political or being political and that is I will donate my [stipend] to a local charity as I have done."
Councillor Larry Whipper said it was unfortunate that every year they had the same debate.
"It brings out the best and the worst in locally elected representatives," he said.
"I don't know why anyone, any councillor, would undervalue the role that we provide to this community.
"I think it really is work of the dollar rates that we're experiencing but I believe that the community gets maximum value out of every councillor in this chamber.
"We go above and beyond."
Cr Whipper said that he felt that Cr McLaughlin was being humble when he said they put aside one day a week.
"I don't know when I've give just one day of council business. I think it consumes my working life.
"We are doing something for the community, why would we undervalue our role."
Councillor Garry Turland spoke in support of Cr Scandrett's amendment.
"Look we've just increased our rate rise by 2.76 percent in COVID-19 in the worst ever pandemic we've ever had and bushfires at the start of the year, which was a disaster for our shire, no doubt," he said.
"We had drought, bushfires, COVID-19 all in one year. We are now going to increase councillors rates by 2.5 percent, which takes the mayor's allowance to $80,000 and a councillor to $24,325.
"So every year this comes up but every other year we didn't have drought, bushfires or a pandemic. We are saying one year only that we hold our line to support our community.
"Every year I say the same thing, I'm not interested in taking any rate rise or councillor payment rise.
"We are doing less now than we have ever done because we are not face to face.
"We are not meeting from 9 am on a Wednesday right through to 4 pm on the days that we are not having a council meeting. We started at 1 o'clock today, we normally start at 9 o'clock.
"We have not visited one site since COVID-19.
"But now your saying you want more money for less work.
"I find it disgraceful."
Mayor Gair said that he felt that Cr Turland was right in a way.
"However my workload hasn't dropped," he said.
"I would suggest the only time that it did drop was in April and I was only here once or twice a week.
"Cr McLaughlin is right. We are a bunch of old men on this council. Everyone around the table, to the degree, is retired.
"Where are the young ones coming through and what is the attraction to try and make the appeal of young ones on council?
"How many have said they can't afford to give up a day? We know that we give up an enormous amount of time every week.
"I don't know whether I should support this or not. I see the arguments for and against. But I don't think you should sell yourselves short councillors."
Councillor Scandrett said that Cr Turland had nailed it when he said they had a much lighter workload due to COVID-19.
"We haven't been involved in a lot of activities from the bushfires forward," he said.
"We should be leading by example, we should not have an increase in councillor fees and we should be helping our community.
"We are all in the same boat."
In his right of reply Cr Andrews said that he felt that the increase was reasonable compared to the workload of all councillors.
"The tribunal has suggested this.
"Four years I have been here and in particular Cr Halstead and Cr Scandrett have voted against this and made it clear they would donate the increase to charity which is very honourable of them.
"Some of us can't probably afford to do that, maybe I am one of them. Now for the hours we put in, it is more than reasonable."
The amendment for fees to remain as was put to a vote. Councillors Scandrett, Turland and Halstead voted for it. Councillors Whipper, Gair, Nelson, Andrews and McLaughlin voted against it.
The amendment was lost.
The recommendation was put forward. Councillors Scandrett, Turland and Halstead voted against it. Councillors Whipper, Gair, Nelson, Andrews and McLaughlin voted for it.
The recommendation was approved.
Councillor Gordon Markwart was not present in council.
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