Mayor applies for time off and pay cut

By Mike Dinsdale

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Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth is seeking his second leave of absence this three-year term, this time to recover from surgery for a long-standing back complaint.

Councillors will convene tomorrow at an extraordinary full council meeting to consider Mr Cutforth's request and a subsequent matter to reduce the mayor's remuneration, and increase that of Deputy Mayor Phil Halse, who will be taking over the mayoral duties while Mr Cutforth is away.

The mayor had surgery on his back earlier this month and has applied for the leave of absence between today and September 18.

Mr Cutforth has not attended several recent council meetings and his absence had been approved by way of an apology on a case-by-case basis, but his recovery from the operation means he will be away from successive meetings so he has applied for the leave of absence, which is expected to be granted.

Mr Cutforth was given a four-month leave of absence in May 2011 - five months after being elected mayor - after suffering a stroke.

His absence this time will also likely lead to an interim lift in pay for Mr Halse - as was the case during the mayor's last leave of absence.

Mr Cutforth has requested a cut in his pay while he is away and that Mr Halse be remunerated for taking over the mayoral duties again.

Council staff have recommended that councillors allocate 40 per cent of Mr Cutforth's salary while he recuperates.

The mayoral vehicle will be stored securely on council premises until the end of this term on October 11.

Mr Cutforth's annual salary is $123,900 - or $10,325 a month - while Mr Halse's salary is $51,434. If the motion is passed today Mr Halse would receive about an extra $4130 for the month he is acting mayor.

Mr Cutforth is not required to seek a reduction in salary or ask that the deputy mayor be remunerated for additional responsibilities while he is on a leave of absence.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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