Council pay rethink causes headache

By Lawrence Gullery

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The authority that sets new pay rates for local government politicians has conceded it will have trouble accounting for the many unofficial meetings and events councillors are expected to attend every year.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson and other chairs from the Otago, Northland and Waikato regional councils met the Remuneration Authority in Wellington yesterday to talk about how councillor salaries would be calculated.

It was initially thought councillors would have to keep a logbook of their hours to demonstrate the scope of work to the authority, which will now set the pay rate for each individual local government politician.

"The meeting has clarified a few things and, firstly, we won't need to keep logbooks," Mr Wilson said.

"The aim is to try and make sense of the hours that are worked and put together a fair salary package, rather than letting the councils divide up a pool of money by themselves to pay councillors, which is the current way of doing things."

Mr Wilson said one of the questions he put to the authority asked how it planned to take into account the number of hours councillors put in outside of official meetings, to attend events, ceremonies and other gatherings as part of their work for the community.

"They [the authority] said they would struggle to find a way to fit that into a fair salary deal but did concede the job as a whole required councillors to do a lot of work outside the normal, official meetings.

"It was something which needed to be accounted for.

"The other point to make is that there is a fair bit of service to the community that we do but don't get paid for.

"People don't mind because they want to get involved in local government to serve their community."

Mr Wilson said the authority would review salaries every three years, before each triennial election.

"That is a key difference which I support. It will give details of the salary and job before each election, so people can see what's involved.

"That will encourage new people into local government and give us a level of renewal. I would encourage more people to give it a go.

"It is a complex issue on how to fairly determine and justify what the salaries should be," he said.

The authority was expected to confirm changes to salaries in February next year.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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