Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and just out of shot is Cr Dan Stewart.
Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and just out of shot is Cr Dan Stewart.

Should Gympie council have voted in a pay freeze for term?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR AND RESPONSE

Nibbling in the right direction

I WAS both bemused and amused by Maddie Manwaring’s report (The Gympie Times, Thursday, June 25) “Councillors vote on $1500 pay rise.”

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I have been critical in the past of Cr Dan Stewart’s tendency to nibble at the edges of issues and, in Cr Warren Polley’s view, it seems he is at it again. But at least he’s nibbling in the right direction, as he sometimes does.

Cr Stewart successfully moved that councillors decline the pay rise that would have cost the council $15,000 next year. (The council is about to declare an operating loss of $4.2 million for the current year and may be forced to borrow some $10 million to carry on).

Cr Polley voted against the motion, arguing that it was merely “virtue signalling” and would result in an insignificant total saving to ratepayers of $15,340 for the year. And the saving to ratepayers would be further trivialised by the fact that the raise would become effective next year anyway. He certainly had a point.

But it was surely a golden opportunity for Cr Polley, on the council as he declared,”...for all the right reasons...”, to move an amendment that councillors take a pay freeze for their term of office.

Warren Polley voted against not accepting the pay rise, saying it was ‘virtue signalling’
Warren Polley voted against not accepting the pay rise, saying it was ‘virtue signalling’

That would have signalled at least four times the virtue, saved four times the money and should not have troubled the majority of Councillors, for whom their $70,000 base salary is a generous second income for what is arguably a part-time job.

Merv Welch, The Palms

Reponse to letter above from Cr Bruce Devereaux posted on Facebook on Sunday

Councillor Bruce Devereaux - Picture: Shane Zahner
Councillor Bruce Devereaux - Picture: Shane Zahner

This week we voted against a pay increase for your councillors, but I guess for some people no matter what we do it will never be enough.

And that’s okay.

I think most people understand the path we’re on as a council under Mayor Hartwig’s leadership.

I will just make a couple of points though.

Firstly, while voting to refuse an automatic pay rise, which would have gone through without our intervening, might be considered virtue signalling by some I see it as something more important: taking a hit to my own hip pocket to illustrate to the region we’re prepared to watch the coin as well as the notes, much like when we decided we wouldn’t have meals provided during meetings. A saving to council coffers of $5k or $15k means $20k for something else.

But also for me, this is about a way to show I feel for any hurt we’re about to rain down on the community and not wanting to be seen to be feathering my own nest with the twigs and down from others.

First meeting of the new elected council - Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart
First meeting of the new elected council - Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart

We didn’t cause this financial problem but we’ve been tasked with fixing it.

Secondly, it’s true some people could view being a Councillor in a Category 3 region as a part time job but my observations of the majority of councillors this term is they do not.

Personally I’m sitting at about 60 hours a week, possibly closer to 70. Late nights at my computer reading documents are the norm after days out and about or in meetings or reading still other documents. I expect this will slow down once we have sorted out the bigger issues but only by increments. I will still be expected to know what I’m voting for or against. I will still be asking questions on behalf of our region.

Gympie Region Mayor Glen Hartwig
Gympie Region Mayor Glen Hartwig

And I’m sure the hours I’m putting in give the appearance of letting the side down compared to what our Mayor is churning through at the moment.

For all that, I would hate this to be seen as a complaint.

I am enjoying the challenge and digging into how the process works and where things have fallen down.

But then I figure I am allowed to both enjoy my new job and get paid.

Bruce Devereaux, GRC councillor

Bruce Devereaux
Bruce Devereaux
Gympie Times


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