Mayors chase a pay rise

Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett and Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt on the border of Melville, Fremantle and Cockburn councils. Inset: Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey. Picture: Marie Nirme d400378
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett and Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt on the border of Melville, Fremantle and Cockburn councils. Inset: Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey. Picture: Marie Nirme d400378

Last week, it was announced that the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal is reviewing local government pay rates, with a decision due in the next few months.

Currently, the local mayors earn $60,000 a year plus $14,000 in sitting fees, compared to other Australian mayors, who receive up to $180,000.

While the three mayors, Melville’s Russell Aubrey, Cockburn’s Logan Howlett and Fremantle’s Brad Pettitt, were not prepared to put a figure on what they should earn, they were pleased a review was under way.

Mr Aubrey quit his full-time teaching job at Wesley College last year to focus solely on his mayoral commitments.

‘I recognised there was a growing level of commitment needed to fulfil the duties that an elected member requires and an increasing level of professionalism,’ he said.

Mr Aubrey said he was driven to get involved in local government 20 years ago by a desire to provide community service, but admits local government has become increasingly complex and technical.

Both Mr Howlett and Dr Pettitt also work as full-time mayors, with Dr Pettitt also calling of a review on councillor wages.

‘The money is obviously not what drives me or any of the other mayors or councillors I know to be involved in local government, but you also don’t want a level of pay so low that you discourage quality candidates from applying,’ he said.

‘It is not just about mayors but also councillors’ allowances. I would hope that as a result of this, that the councillors are also better rewarded for the long hours they put in for very little pay.’

Mr Howlett also agreed the role elected members played in the community was becoming increasingly complex.

‘Dealing with budgets that exceed $100 million, a contribution at local, regional, state and national level, and the overall hours we contribute each week are factors that need to be taken into account with our salaries, particularly when compared to their counterparts in other states and territories,’ he said.

WA Local Government Association (WALGA) president Troy Pickard, who wants a pay rise for everyone in local government, said mayors and councillors were paid significantly different to those in other states.

‘We believe that to not compensate elected members appropriately restricts the pool of eligible candidates, potentially to the detriments of the local government and the local community,’ Mr Pickard said.

WALGA will meet with the tribunal this week to discuss their recommendations.