Newcastle ALP councillors vote themselves 16% pay rise

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes will receive a $22,000 pay rise from January 1.NEWCASTLE’S seven Labor councillors voted in a bloc on Tuesday night to grant themselves a16 per cent pay rise.

The decision will increase lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes’ mayoral allowance from $76,397 to $95,000, a rise of 24 per cent. She also receives a councillor’s pay, up from $26,213 to $30,500, taking her overall remuneration from $102,610 to $125,500.

The previous council voted in June against a pay rise, even though theLocal Government Remuneration Tribunal had granted councillors a substantial increase if they chose to take it up.

The council’s interim chief executive officer, Jeremy Bath, who was appointed in April, told Tuesday’s meeting he had decided to bring thematter back to the newly elected council for a fresh vote.

Andrea Rufo (Ind) argued on Tuesday against the rise, saying the money could be better spent on public domain works, and Kath Elliott (Ind) said councillors were “not doing it tough” and had all their expenses covered by ratepayers.

But Cr Emma White (ALP) said it was important that councillor pay levels made it possible for less affluent people to seek office, and Cr Declan Clausen said the new councillor and mayoral pay reflected their workloads, which he compared with that of a state parliament backbencher.

Cr Clausen said the lord mayor’s current wage was substantially less than mayors in other regional cities received.

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate receives more than $240,000 a year, and the mayor of Townsville, where the 180,000 population is similar to that of the Newcastle local government area, receives close to $200,000.

Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser’s pay rose from$87,590 to$113,280 this year.

Opinion:There will rarely if ever be a popular time for elected officials to grant themselves pay rises

From 2010 to mid-2017, pay for Newcastlecouncillors rose from $23,360 to $26,213, whilethe lord mayor’s allowanceclimbed from$68,083 to $76,397.

Over the seven-year period, that represented an average annual pay increase of 1.9 per cent.

The councillors also approved a recommendation that they automatically take the maximum rise allowable by the tribunal until 2021.

Cr Nelmes reiterated her belief that councillors should not vote on their own pay rises and the remuneration should be set by an independent body.

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