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LGA board awards itself pay rise

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The Local Government Association board has voted to award its own members a pay rise – a decision the organisation concedes is “vexed”.

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Rate freezes and caps have dominated the local government agenda in recent months – with the sector pushing back strongly against a Labor proposal to legislate waivers for businesses and not-for-profit organisations hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But minutes released to stakeholders ahead of next month’s local government AGM reveal the LGA board is proposing its President’s remuneration should be increased from $47,982 to $60,000 a year, with the remaining nine directors awarded a fee increase from $4291 to $6000.

That decision must be ratified by the 68 member councils attending the AGM – at which a new board will also be elected, meaning most of the current board won’t benefit personally from the change.

But LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar concedes: “It’s vexed.”

He says the board is bound by policy to review its remuneration arrangements every two years, and has not voted for an increase since 2014.

However, it’s understood that in 2018 a restructure saw most board members receive a significant pay rise, when the LGA abolished vice-presidential positions and reduced the number of directors on the board. From that point, members who would previously have been paid $100 per meeting – effectively $600 a year – were instead paid at the $4291 rate previously offered the four vice-presidents.

“When this was set up the meetings were only supposed to be every two months,” Pinnegar said, noting they were now monthly and required research on ongoing issues including planning reform, local government reform and the COVID response.

The board notes show the current directors “acknowledge that the current President’s and Director’s remuneration is not set at a level that adequately reflect the responsibilities, risks and time commitment required to undertake their role effectively and professionally”.

The current board has also called on the LGA to write to the state Remuneration Tribunal “to request that they advise the LGA on the setting of LGA Board Director and related entity remuneration”.

“We just think it’s easier – it takes the politics out of it,” Pinnegar said.

“There’s a public interest in [people] knowing what the board gets paid and the president gets paid – it would be great if we could point to something like an independent body who says ‘we think it should be this amount’.

“They recognise in the COVID era that there are some sensitivities – they’re fully aware of that [but] the policy says it has to happen every two years, so [if it didn’t happen] it would be another freeze for another two years.”

Tea Tree Gully mayor Kevin Knight moved the motion, telling InDaily: “I’m not going to be there on the board any more, so it felt like the right thing for me to do it [as] I’m not getting anything out of it.”

He said it was “ridiculous” that the board had not increased its remuneration since 2014 given current workloads, but conceded “a board that sets its own allowances is kind of ridiculous”.

“We went through figures from all the other boards [in Australia]” he said, insisting the SA fee remaining well below the average remuneration.

Note: This article previously read that LGA directors received $600 per meeting prior to 2018. This should have read $600 a year.

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