The media was awash yesterday with the story that Councillors from the City of Adelaide want a 60% increase in their allowance.
Much of this debate centered around how dare they, they are volunteers. I found that an interesting debate given experiences I have had with residents/rate payers in my own ward.
In a recent door knocking exercise over an issue that impacts significantly in my ward I engaged in a conversation about my status. During this discussion the resident/rate ratepayer was astounded to hear that I was really only a part time (if you can call it that) volunteer. This person had believed that I was full time and and being paid a wage or salary.
I have likewise had people astonished when I tell them that this is around a 20 hour a week “volunteer job”, and wonder how I find the time as a small business self employed person to commit this amount of time.
The truth is, it is not easy. I lose probably 2 jobs per week as a private building inspector and that is a loss of gross income to me of around $ 36,000.00. I don’t have to put that amount of time in having said that, and some don’t.
Is the allowance I receive enough to compensate me for loss of income? No! At $15,500.00 my allowance does not compensate me.
I wonder if the media would begrudge me if I only put in the time my income personal income would allow. My philosophy however is, if you put your hand up you make the commitment and you do the time, the time it takes to serve your people properly.
Was I aware that it would impact on me that much when I ran for Council almost 4 years ago? No! Does it bother me that this is the case? Yes, when I get attacked by rate payers because they are not happy with something they believe I should fix or the media when they attack the profession as greedy people who do not serve the public well.
Will I put my hand up again later this year? Yes! Why?. Because of an underlying satisfaction that I get from knowing I am serving my community, both those who appreciate what I am doing , and those who don’t.
But what about the fact that you are not being adequately compensated for your loss? Good question, all I can say again I have a real sense of satisfaction from serving my community! Go figure! This is something that is hard to adequately put into words.
Here’s the bottom line folks. We (all councillors) were invited by the Remuneration Tribunal (as they are required to do) to make a submission to a mandatory review conducted every four years, just prior to the Council elections. They also invited submissions from the public and that includes people working in the media to make submissions as well.
The tribunal is required by law to review the allowances we receive and make a determination of what they should be going forward. Is it appropriate to seek submissions? Yes! Did I? No!
You may well ask, what about the submission put in by City of Adelaide Councillors; are they entitled to make such a submission. I say yes they are entitled so to do. Is what they are asking for fair. Given my situation I would have to say yes it is.
If the media is so upset at this then I suggest they had the chance to influence the tribunal by putting a submission to them and they (the media) would have been well aware of the opportunity so to do. Yesterday really was about bashing councils because it gives the media a reason to get up in the morning.
As far as I am concerned what ever the tribunal says is a good thing and I will accept it. I will also continue to put the time in even though it is impacting on my financial situation.
I finish by asking this question and observing that the majority of Councillors appear to be retired people not business people (small and large) or workers. Why is it that working people are less represented on Councils than retired people?
Answer: Probably because they are not prepared to make the sacrifice I am clearly making.
Whether this would change if the remuneration were lifted in accordance with what the Adelaide Councillors have prompted we don’t know, and I suspect we won’d find out soon either because the tribunal I would have thought is unlikely to respond in kind.