Ashburton district councillors don’t want pay rise

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Ashburton mayor Neil Brown and district councillors have told the Remuneration Authority they don’t want a pay rise and that most councillors would actually accept a decrease, because of the economic impact of Covid-19.

The authority determines the pool of money councils must pay their elected councillors and allocated $377,856 to be distributed to Ashburton district councillors. The pool does not apply to the mayor and Methven Community Board members.

Council currently allocates $57,502 to deputy mayor Liz McMillan, $43,000 to five councillors with committee chair status and $35,118 to the other three councillors. The mayor’s remuneration is $121,500.

The Remuneration Authority says it is bound by law and can’t decrease members’ pay, despite the unprecedented circumstances. It can decide to freeze remuneration rates though at the next determination, and will not stop councillors from donating some of their pay to a charity.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she, ministers and heads of core government agencies would be amending the law to enable them to take voluntary pay cuts of 20 per cent for six months.

Similar paycuts have been debated by councils and elected members around the country already. In Ashburton, councillor John Falloon has already said he will give 20 per cent of his salary each fortnight for the next six months to the IHC.

“In doing so I acknowledge that many New Zealanders have seen their pay cut to 80 per cent, while others have lost their jobs entirely,” he said on Facebook.

Authority chair Fran Wilde told Ashburton district councillors in a letter today that there were mixed views in local government and the authority was waiting for a national policy decision from Government.

She said some local government members were on relatively low levels of remuneration.
Mayor Brown said council should sit tight and be part of the nationwide response, when it was decided.

He said council had already written an email to the authority saying its members would not be seeking a pay rise for the next financial year, “and that the bulk of the councillors also said a decrease in our remuneration would not be unfavourable”.

Mileage and other claims are not included in the remuneration. The 2020-21 determination is from July 1 this year and council must allocate its entire pool.