BATHURST'S mayor and councillors only found out six days after they voted to approve pay rises as part of the 2020-21 budget that they would be eligible for increases of thousands of dollars.
The Western Advocate revealed on Thursday that mayor Bobby Bourke's remuneration was set to rise almost $20,000 to $84,400 and each of the eight councillors were to paid an extra $4000 a year after councillors voted to approve the 2020-21 budget.
The pay rises were a result of a reclassification of the Bathurst local government area by the NSW Local Government Remuneration Tribunal, which upgraded Bathurst from a Regional Rural council to the new Regional Centre classification.
News of the rises sparked howls on protest online, particularly coming in a pandemic when many residents have either lost work or been forced to work reduce hours.
But Cr Bourke said on Friday that he and his councillors believed they were voting only for a 2.5 per cent rise - the typical annual rise awarded by the remuneration tribunal - when they approved the budget.
The Western Advocate understands councillors were only told of the reclassification via an email from council staff on Tuesday this week - six days after they had voted to approve the budget.
Cr Bourke said he would now be speaking with all the councillors about whether they should review the amount they are to be paid.
"I've got to talk to the councillors first and then get an understanding of what we're going to do," he said.
Cr Bourke said those talks might result in a further report coming before council or a working party to determine councillors' remuneration.
He said the new Regional Centre category was applied to 24 councils, also including Dubbo and Orange.
Orange councillors this week voted to defer a decision on any pay rise.
"The increase is an automatic result of the reclassification of our council by the tribunal to the new category of Regional Centre," Cr Bourke said.
"It is important to note that this process is managed by an independent body that was established by the State Government."
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
In a statement to the media on Friday, council said the reclassification process started last October following an invitation from the tribunal for councils to comment on the proposal to create a new Regional Centre classification.
"On 18 June council adopted the annual budget which included a resolution on councillor remuneration," the statement read.
"At the time that this resolution was passed, councillors were unaware of the tribunal's determination to reclassify the council.
"Council received a circular from the Office of Local Government on 22 June advising the tribunal's determination for the 2020-21 year which placed Bathurst [in the] newly created Regional Centre category."
The statement said council would "continue to review the category that it fits within".
What do you think?
- Why not write us a letter to the editor ...