Gunnedah shire councillors will not receive a 3.75 per cent remuneration increase after an amended motion was carried to keep the same rate as the last financial year.

It came as the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal determined an increase could apply to mayoral and councillor fees for the 2024-25 period.

This would mean the councillor fees would increase by $660 ($18,340) and an additional mayoral fee would have meant a further increase of $1425 (total mayoral allowance $57,690).

Superannuation would also need to be paid.

The director corporate services report states that based on the 3.75 per cent increase the 2024/25 budget for mayoral and councillor fees would require an increase of $2441.

There was much debate between councillors at June’s ordinary meeting, when deciding whether to move the officer’s recommendation in line with the tribunal’s increase.

Cr Murray O’Keefe agreed to move the motion with Cr Juliana McArthur seconding it.

“I have long been an advocate for us working hard to increase the council category we sit in,” Cr O’Keefe said.

“It is fortunately – or unfortunately, an important part about trying to attract and retain quality candidates for council.”

Cr Kate McGrath and Juliana McArthur agreed that the remuneration needed to sufficiently cover the time working as councillors, especially with the upcoming local election and encouraging candidates.

“We are not just looking at what you get paid to be a councillor,” Cr McGrath said.

“There are several of us around the table where this is also how we are compensated for the money we cannot earn, because we are fulfilling those duties as councillors.

“We need to take leave to fulfil these duties and I would really hate to think there are competent, capable people out in the community who are interested in becoming a councillor who would find it prohibitive because of the financial loss they would incur because the councillor fees are not proportionate to what they would lose.”

Cr Rob Hooke, Cr Robert Hoddle and Cr Colleen Fuller spoke against the motion, feeling it was unreasonable for council to state things were financially tight but in the same sentence would be willing for councillors to take a remuneration increase.

“We have adopted other things [during the meeting] in council rates, fees and whatever else. I am not comfortable as a councillor accepting a pay increase so I will be voting against it,” Cr Fuller said.

Cr Hooke agreed with Cr Fuller, stating that many are in “a fiscally tight period”.

“Providing all our services that we need to provide is becoming more difficult with constraints from the federal and state government,” he said.

“I think it would be a really bad look for us to actually take an increase in fees.”

Cr Hoddle was also against the motion but recognised the argument of the other councillors in needing to attract capable candidates.

“I just think the timing is wrong,” he said.

“It is not a huge amount of money, however, I think we want to send a signal to the rest of our community that we are tightening our belts as well.”

Cr Hoddle strongly urged councillors to vote against it, reminding the council that during this term, payment for councillors was re-rated into a higher category, going from “receiving $12,000 for councillors a year [then] suddenly receiving $18,000, plus”.

“That was a big jump. We also received for the first time superannuation,” he said.

“We have had a couple of things that have really fallen into our lap and I think it is time we pull our heads in and say we do not want an increase this year.”

Cr Hoddle put forward an amendment which meant the annual fee payable for councillors and the mayor would remain at the same rate as 2023/2024, with Cr Hooke seconding it.

Cr O’Keefe argued against the motion, providing more details into why he was happy to publicly announce his position on the matter.

“Ultimately, the point of being on council is to best represent our community,” he said.

“Everyone is here for the right reasons, we are here to get the best outcome for Gunnedah, and in my opinion, [we need to make] sure we are remunerating councillors for their time.

“There is a limit to the expenses you can claim, but the expenses that may incur rearranging their life to serve on council is quite important.

“I do not want to see us create a precedent for future councillors to step back from taking the annual fee increase set by the Remuneration Tribunal because I want to make sure we are continuing to [reinforce] the argument that we should be doing everything we can to encourage the best candidates to step forward and work for Gunnedah.

“As Cr McArthur pointed out, there is a situation where we could work hard to have ourselves actually collecting a ticket of about $20,000 more than what we are and I certainly do not propose trying to push ourselves into that rating category.

In some other states in Australia, we would be earning $90,000 or more per annum to fulfil the role as councillor and I am not saying we need $90,000 but I am indicating the role of councillor in Gunnedah is not actually lesser of the role of a councillor in [other towns].

“A lot of us burn leave entitlements … I can assure you what I have burnt through is more than the council fees. It is a loss to me more than the council fees.

“Should the amendment be defeated, and the original motion be sustained, we will actually be taking a pay cut in real terms, because the fee increase is lower than the current annualised rate of inflation in the financial year we have taken.

“The fee increase is much lower than the average public sector wage rise that has been approved this year and is much lower than the average private sector wage rise,” he said.

“For those of us who have a mortgage like myself, we are certainly unlikely to face interest rate cuts anytime soon.”

Cr Moses pointed out that no one would be assured a place as a councillor after the next election.

The amended motion for the annual fee payable to remain at the same rate as 2023/2024 was carried.

To order photos from this page click here