Should council cap salaries?

16:00, Nov 21 2013

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer has been campaigning to keep council salaries down. Reporter Karina Abadia asked four other councillors and the mayor whether they think council spending is heading in the right direction.

Adopting a councilwide remuneration policy is a good start but councillor Cameron Brewer remains sceptical.

"Every year for the last three years when I've raised the issues around increasing staff costs and numbers, the mayor has come up with an excuse and given me and others assurances that the trend won't continue. Every year the numbers have risen."

The mayor says the policy will give incoming chief executive Stephen Town good direction on the types of benchmarking council wants to see.

Christine Fletcher is chairwoman of the CEO review committee and will work closely with Mr Town.

"I want Aucklanders to regain the respect they should have for local government but it's got to be with actions not words."


Mike Lee says there's a lot of slack in the system.

"I'm particularly focused on the huge amounts of money that goes on IT, communications and advertising. I don't think a lot of that money is justified.

"We need to look very hard at these high-flying corporate salaries we're paying out, not only to our own staff but the army of consultants that the council is paying."

The Annual Report 2012/2013 shows that the number of council staff members and those working for subsidiaries such as Auckland Transport and Watercare who are on salaries of $100,000 or more has gone up by about 20 per cent from 1254 to 1500 people over the last year.

In the same period, staff numbers have increased by about five per cent from 10,157 to 10,616.

Mr Brewer suggests it's time for an inflation-adjusted fiscal cap.

The new Maungakiekie-Tamaki councillor Denise Krum agrees in principle.

"I think there is merit in the idea [of a fiscal cap] but I'd have to have a look at the starting point and whether we are meeting market rates."

Mr Brown says a cap is not the answer.

"We want best bang for buck but also we want very good quality staff and managers to deliver the top services that our community want."

Salaries of elected members are set by the New Zealand Remuneration Authority.

Mr Brewer says councillors like himself are well paid. He is critical of a recent pay rise which increased the base salary from $90,025 to $98.672.

"It was really unfortunate that councillor salaries went up by 9 per cent around the election time. I would be extremely disappointed if they were to again well and truly outpace the rate of inflation."

The salaries of local board chairs vary from $88,222 in Howick to $45,211 on Great Barrier Island, depending on the population of the ward.

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson says residents get good value for money from her team.

"Our community is very vocal in what they ask for and we have to work extra hard with the tight fiscal envelope we've been given."

Councillors are divided on plans to introduce a councilwide living wage which would have an ongoing cost of $3.75 million.

Cathy Casey supports it.

"It's about paying people fairly at the bottom and making sure that the fat in the system which is at the top is shared right back."

Mr Brewer says raising the minimum council wage to $18.40 would trigger wage inflation through the organisation and would mean an increase in rates.

But Mr Brown says wage inflation has been factored in.

"We'd only do it on the basis that we were able to find savings to deliver it within budget and that it would not impact on rates," he says.

Go to and search remuneration local government for more information.

East And Bays Courier