Council pay rises leave sour taste

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014
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Being forced to accept yet another pay rise is a bitter pill to swallow, New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd says.

Come July 1, Judd will be pocketing an extra $3950 a year after being given a 3.125 per cent pay rise.

His new salary of $130,350 is set by the Remuneration Authority and Judd cannot refuse it.

"This is clearly out of touch with what other people are trying to put up with. It's hard to swallow," he said.

"And there's nothing we can do to change it. The reality is [that] it is set by an independent authority.

"I'd questioned the process they have used to set these increases. I just don't feel comfortable with it because people in our community are doing it hard," he said.

The authority has also set a 2.7 per cent pay rise for councillors, taking them from $37,000 to $38,000 a year.

This is on the back of a 14 per cent pay rise which kicked in after the election in last October. By July 1 councillors' salaries would have jumped from $32,425 in mid-2013 to $38,000.

The current annual rate of inflation is 1.6 per cent.

Murray Chong has struck out at the increase, saying it makes councillors look like hypocrites.

"There are people around the council table that are wanting to keep rates rises in line with inflation," he said.

"There is no possible way we can argue we will keep rates down if we are not leading by example.

"I don't think any councillor should keep the extra money."

Chong already donates a proportion of last year's 14 per cent increase to charity and said this year's rise would go straight to a community group.

"At least that way it's helping people," he said.

The above-inflation pay rise could also put elected councillors in a hard position when they were evaluating staff wages.

"There is no way I'd feel comfortable entering a discussion about someone else's wages if I'd accepted more than inflation."

Councillor Gordon Brown said last year's 14 per cent increase had been "unbelievably hard to justify" and a further increase above inflation would not go down well in the community.

"It's becoming embarrassing," he said.

While Brown did not agree with the above-inflation increases, he believed it was important for councillors to continue to be paid a fair amount.

That way a person of any financial standing could be on the council.

"Then it's not just the rich," he said.

The new pay model, which was launched last year, is based on an evaluation of the job and the time commitment it requires.

Previously, pay was based on a pool of funds allocated and distributed within each council. However, the new model sets base salaries and provides scope to add money to those who hold extra responsibility.

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The Remuneration Authority has also set the salaries for community board members and chairs.

After July 1 a Clifton Community Board member will be paid $5800, up from $5500.

An Inglewood Community Board member will be paid $6700, up from $6500, while Kaitake Community Board members' pay will rise from $6000 to $6200, and Waitara Community Board members will go from $6500 to $6700.

The Clifton Community Board chair will go up from $11,000 to $11,600.

The Inglewood Community Board chair will get a $400 a year increase to $13,400, as will the Kaitake Community Board chair and the Waitara Community Board chair, who will rise to $12,400 and $13,400 respectively.

- Taranaki Daily News

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