By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Casey councillors say their jobs have out-grown their part-time pay-packets.
Their annual allowances are set the maximum allowable by the State Government at $30,223 plus expenses for travel, professional development and phone usage.
Councillor Rosalie Crestani responded passionately on Facebook to reported comments by Senator Lucy Gichuhi that the minimum federal MP $200,000-plus salary was “not a lot of money”.
“At least you don’t get paid well below minimum wages like us Councillors do,” Cr Crestani posted.
“Yes, we stand not for the money but the desire to serve the people.
“It’s just we also must pay taxes, rates and skyrocketing energy bills (and) are expected to absorb hundreds of pages of documents in less than a week in order to make important decisions that affect thousands of our constituents.”
The minimum pay for Victorian MPs is $168,526, and federal backbench MPs are on just over $200,000.
Cr Crestani told Star News she was juggling three jobs, raising a family as well as her councillor duties.
With more “fair” pay, “councillors can give more to their community”.
“The expectation of people is that they want to see more of their councillors out there.”
She said she hadn’t missed a council meeting in her four-and-a-half years’ service, sacrificing holiday and family events as a result.
Sometimes every night of the week was taken up by council committees, council meetings, on-site meetings with residents, sports clubs and groups and other events – as well as responding to calls and emails.
“It’s a tell-tale sign when no one comments that you’re being paid too much.”
Cr Crestani’s stance was supported by mayor Geoff Ablett, who said councillors’ base allowances should be closer to $50,000.
“It is a full-time job – you could spend all day going to meetings, following up on calls, getting serious issues resolved…
“People wouldn’t criticise this if they’ve done the job and know what it’s like. Every minute of the day you have an issue on your mind.”
Cr Amanda Stapledon said the role was traditionally viewed as “honorary” but it had grown in its demands.
“I’m very, very honoured to be elected for Mayfield Ward but to be honest I would be pleased to be paid as a full-time role.
“There’s so much to be done.”
Victorian Local Governance Association is lobbying for an independent remuneration tribunal to set allowances for councillors.
Currently, the amount is set by the Local Government Minister.
VLGA chief executive Kathryn Arndt said current allowances didn’t reflect councillors’ roles and responsibilities and needed to be “critically examined”.
“It is not surprising therefore that many councillors juggle part-time professional work as well as their roles as elected representatives which places significant pressure on these individuals.”