Deciding own salaries could cause “unnecessary tension”

NO GO: The city council says being given the power to determine how much its elected members are paid could cause "unnecessary tension".

City councillors do not want the power to vote on how much they are paid because it could cause “unnecessary tension”.

The Remuneration Authority is proposing to give all councils the ability to decide how much councillors and elected board members are paid to better reflect community needs and workloads.

Currently, the authority sets city councillors’ salaries. Under the new plan, remuneration would be set by a 75 per cent majority council vote. The authority would continue to determine the mayor’s salaries.

But a draft submission on the plan, put together by city council staff after feedback from community board members and city councillors, said it is not in favour of the plan.

“The council considers that councils deciding on councillor and community board remuneration would be problematic and have the possibility to cause unnecessary tension,” the submission said.

“The impact of legislative requirements for council decision-making and public participation could make decision-making contentious and open councils up to unnecessary public criticism.”

Under the plan, each council would have a pool of money to pay salaries, relative to its size, which would remain the same even if the number of elected members changed.

Currently, the authority annually reviews how much elected members are paid.

In July, Mayor Lianne Dalziel’s pay went up to $190,245, Deputy Mayor Andrew Turner was on $118,220 and city councillors received $102,400.

Community board members’ pay ranged from $9527 to $23,742, while the chairs’ salaries were between $19,056 and $47,480.

If the change goes ahead, a structure will be set out to determine pay and a base salary for city councillors. But they could be paid extra for additional work, such as being on a committee.

City councillor Vicki Buck said she was not in favour of the idea.

“That’s always going to be fraught.” City councillor David East said elected members had input into the draft submission.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable about the vote determining my own salary.”

Consultation on the plan closes on December 15. The authority would then consider the feedback and aims to have the new rules in place by the next local body elections in 2019.

In its submission, the city council also raised concerns over the way community board members’ pay was determined by population, rather than workload. Some members and chairs were paid more than others due to the population of the wards they represented.

The submission also said community board chairs were being paid double that of members, which did not reflect the balance of roles, and it wanted the difference reduced.