Logbooks for pay?

By Lawrence Gullery of Hawke's Bay Today -

Regional council politicians may have to keep a logbook of their hours in order to justify new pay rates likely to be introduced next year ahead of local body elections.

The Remuneration Authority, which sets the level of pay for each council, is proposing a new model.

Currently, each council is allocated a pool of money and it is up to councils to decide how it is divided between their councillors.

The pool was largely based on the value of assets of each council which determined its responsibilities to the community. Under the new structure, the pool would go and the authority would determine the salary for each councillor.

The issue came up at the Hawkes Bay Regional Council's final meeting of the year where councillors asked whether they would have to keep logbooks in order to show the authority the hours they worked.

Regional council chairman Fenton Wilson, with the other chairs from the Otago, Waikato and Northland regional councils, were to meet with the authority today to discuss the changes.

"Part of the changes involve asking us to look at how many quality hours a week councillors work. There were some comments about whether we could include the hours of work we have to do in preparation to understand complex issues we have to discuss and decide on.

"The regional council is science based. We have nine PhD staff and our work is technical, handling environmental issues, modelling for weather events and so on.

"There is a lot of reading and research involved for our councillors and the authority is interested in quantifying that time."

Mr Wilson said it was also difficult to determine if councillors could count the hours they put in attending events on behalf of the council and constituents or whether they fell outside what the authority determined to be a part of their job.

Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers, who has been involved in the Hastings District Council's submission on the authority's proposed changes, said she did not think councillors would have to keep logbooks.

The Hastings council was "reasonably comfortable" with the new structure but did have some problems with remuneration for councillors who had extra responsibilities, such as the chairs of standing committees.

"The authority will determine the pay for each councillor and then there will be an amount allocated that will be at the discretion of each council to apportion to those councillors with extra responsibilities.

"The extra amount will be the equivalent of one councillor salary and under the current structure, we don't think the extra amount is going to be quite enough to recognise the extra responsibilities."

The authority was likely to confirm the changes in February 2013 and by July, councils would be advised of the new salaries ahead of the elections in October.

Ms Bowers said it would allow those seeking re-election and new candidates to see what the level of pay was, which would help determine whether or not they could offer the time to be a local body politician.

"In the current system the salaries aren't determined until after the elections."

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