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Warrnambool city councillors vote against pay rise

By Jess Densley

Warrnambool City councillors have shunned a pay rise.

Warrnambool City councillors (from left) Michael Neoh, Peter Hulin, Sue Cassidy, Kylie Gaston, David Owen, Robert Anderson, and Tony Herbert. Picture: Rob Gunstone
They voted 5-1 on Monday night to forego the two-per cent increase, with some councillors saying it was not justified. The yearly bill for councillors’ allowances is more than $246,000 with the mayor receiving $76,521 and the six other councillors receiving $24,730 each, plus superannuation.
A motion was put forward by councillor Mike Neoh and seconded by Cr Kylie Gaston to support the increase.
A debate about the validity of an increase changed Cr Neoh’s mind.
Cr Peter Hulin said although the annual allowance was not enough to cover the loss business owners made by shutting their shops for council business, he did not support the increase.
“I believe at the moment we have just done the budget and we realise how tight things are,” he said.
“I think it would be a good gesture for council to forego the rise to show the people that we understand that we have to pull our heads in too if we are expecting them to pay more. At this time we should show we are prepared to go without as well.”
Cr Sue Cassidy said councillors often spoke about making efficiencies, and foregoing the rise would be a good step.
“As a group of seven I think this would be a great start in helping with efficiencies by not accepting the pay rise,” she said. “With what has been happening over the last 18 months with the city centre renewal and rate capping, I don’t believe that a pay rise is warranted. How can we justify a pay rise when we may be looking at a variation in rates for our ratepayers in the future? Until the time of completion of the CBD renewal
I believe we can’t in the eyes of the ratepayers maintain our allowance without a pay rise.”
David Owen said he wouldn’t accept the pay rise, and if it was granted, he would donate it to charity.
“We have to be showing restraint,” he said.
Cr Neoh said there had been good discussion and he had changed his mind. Cr Gaston voted against foregoing the rise. Cr Tony Herbert was absent from the meeting and was an apology.
Under the Local Government Act the allowance is reviewed by the the Minister for Local Government. This year the minister, Marlene Kairouz, determined the allowances be increased by two per cent.
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