Council paid to the max: $9.03

A WEEKLY pay rise equivalent to about two schooners of beer was pitched by Lismore deputy mayor Isaac Smith as a demand to the State Government for a living wage for councillors.

After a sometimes heated debate, Lismore councillors on Tuesday voted themselves a pay rise of $9.03 a week – the maximum allowed under the Local Government Act.

Cr Gianpierro Battista and mayor Jenny Dowell were the only councillors to oppose the pay rise – although Cr Graham Meineke generously offered a few token words to the ‘nay' side of the debate to allow Cr David Yarnell a chance to wax lyrical about the need to pay councillors more.

Cr Smith led the ‘aye' debate, saying the council needed to send a message to the State Government about the need to pay councillors properly.

“It's not the money, it's the principal,” Cr Smith said. “This is the only way I can see more people, younger people, more women, people with families, getting involved by saying the currentremuneration is not acceptable.”

Cr Smith said the $15,500 Lismore councillors get a year was roughly equivalent to a young worker at a McDonald's restaurant – except the staff at Maccas got bigger pay rises.

“This increase of $10 means we're not even keeping parity with a McDonald's worker,” Cr Smith said.

Cr Battista told his colleagues being a councillor was about providing aservice to the community, not about collecting a pay cheque.

“We didn't apply for this saying ‘I don't have a job, so I'll apply for this one'. We put our hands up for thecommunity,” he said.

“No one's asking us to do it. We are all volunteering for this job.”

He said councillors voting themselves a pay rise rang false when it was done in an environment of searching for savings to help the council's budget.

Cr Vanessa Ekins said the pay inc-rease needed to be put into perspective. Even going for the maximum allowed under the Local Government Act, the increase came in at a combined cost of less than $6000, in a council budget of more than $100 million.

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