Councillor pay increases urged

The vexed issue of pay rises for the Waitaki mayor, councillors and community board members of the Waitaki District Council will be considered today, and they may have no choice but to accept them.

In the current tightening economy, some local authorities have considered not accepting pay rises set by the Remuneration Authority.

But the authority, in a circular to councils, has warned doing so could result in higher increases in the future, which may be less acceptable to the public.

The authority sets pay rates for local authorities by allocating a pool from which mayors, councillors and community board members are paid.

Apart from a mayor's salary, which is set by the authority, the pay rates for councillors and community board members are decided by each council based on the pool.

For 2009-10, the authority has increased Waitaki's pool by 4.38% to $311,230. Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton's salary would rise from $69,187 to $71,728.

Other pay rates which will be considered by the strategy committee today are (with the current rate in parenthesis):

Deputy mayor Gary Kircher $23,509 ($22,340), committee chairmen $22,040 ($20,943), subcommittee chairmen and councillors $19,101 (councillors $16,775, subcommittee chairmen $18,151), Ahuriri and Waihemo Community Board chairmen $13,224 ($12,556), community board members $5877 ($5585).

Authority chairman Richard Oughton, in the circular, said some local bodies were considering not increasing pay.

He said the increase from July 1 was conservative, somewhat less than it should be based on market conditions.

"A zero increase could create a situation where a larger, and perhaps less publicly acceptable, adjustment may be needed from July 1, 2010.

Further postponing an adjustment at that time would only serve to exacerbate the problem," he said.

Mr Oughton also pointed out the reason for having the authority set the pay of elected representatives was to remove political responsibility and associated public pressure.

"We must ensure, as far as we can, that this independence from political pressure is maintained," he said.

However, the authority would consider submissions from any councils not to fully allocate the increases, but would want valid reasons.


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