Pay rise voted on just before lights go out at council

SHOALHAVEN City Council’s meeting on Tuesday evening was cut short by a blackout. Councillors only had time to vote one item through – their pay rise.

The majority of councillors voted to award themselves a 5.1 per cent rise.

The raise will lift their annual allowance from $17,064 to $17,930.

Mayor Joanna Gash said she had no difficulty with the decision and did not believe any councillor was in the role for the money. 

“The increase is over two years,” she said.

“This council is working extremely hard. The councillors are getting around the community and going to meetings.”

Not all councillors voted for the rise. Crs Guile, Kitchener and Tribe voted against it.

Cr Guile voiced his concern over the amount of the rise in the lead-up to the meeting.

Cr Gash said she was “very disappointed to hear Cr Guile with another thing to discourage people”.

“I think it was hypocritical of Cr Guile to say we are doing all this in secret. The decision was in open council, it was all discussed openly,” Cr Gash said.

During Tuesday night’s meeting Crs Gash and Guile had a stand-up argument over him being permitted to speak in council on the issue.

“The Mayor tried to shut me down from speaking about it. She said it was discussed at a committee meeting. But I hadn’t attended that meeting,” Cr Guile said.

“We had a stand-up shouting match and then thankfully the lights went out.”

Last year, councillors and the Mayor voted not to increase their pay.

“We decided not to take a pay rise last year,” Cr Gash said.

“I gave away almost $50,000 which was my mayoral and council allowance, while I was still a federal member,” Cr Gash said.

She suggested if Cr Guile did not want the pay rise he did not have to take it.

“He could give it to charity if he doesn’t want it.”

Cr Guile said he did not like talking about what he did with any money he received. 

“I think to publicly talk about those things has an element of grandstanding. I avoid that,” he said.

He was, however, happy to voice concerns with the size of the increase, only a year after councillors voted not to take a rise.

“I feel it’s a bit of a breach of trust,” he said.

“The 5.1 per cent pay rise was against the recommendation of the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal, which recommended a 2.5 per cent.

“But they went for the ceiling rate.

“It demonstrates a certain disingenuousness in the step we took last year in knocking back the rise.

“It makes that look like temporary generosity. 

“Last year we never actually said the intention was for it to last 12 months and that this year we would basically take two pay rises.”

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