Govt weighs capping pay for general managers

Local government general managers in NSW could see their remuneration packages capped or determined by an independent body.

Shelley Hancock

It comes in response to what the government says are concerns some are getting paid more than Australia’s prime minister and even the US President.

Individual councils currently determine remuneration packages for GMs, with annual salaries in NSW varying from $143,000 to almost $650,000, and average remuneration of $328,287.

The state’s three highest paid general managers are at Parramatta ($633,852), Northern Beaches ($512,092) and Sydney ($511,954).

Local government minister Shelley Hancock says the way their remuneration is determined is out of step with NSW senior public servants, MPs, mayors and councillors, whose pay is set by independent arbitrators.

‘Out of step’

Unlike the NSW public sector, general managers can also receive discretionary increases to their total remuneration package from Council.

Councillor fees range from $9,190 to $40,530 and mayoral fees from $18,970 to $263,040.

Senior executives in the NSW public sector get between $192,600 and $562,650.

As a result, there’s concern in the community that some general managers are getting paid more than the prime minister and even the US president, Ms Hancock says.

“Therefore, the NSW Government is strongly considering mandating that salaries of general managers are set by an independent body, not by elected councillors,” she said.

“These managers should receive remuneration not only in line with their duties, skills and experience but in accordance with community expectations.”

The NSW government this week launched a consultation paper for councils and members of the public to have their say on general manager and senior staff remuneration.

“The comprehensive consultation paper examines general manager salaries to address community concerns they are too high with a large disparity across the state, an increasing gap compared to salaries of other workers, and financial pressures facing some NSW councils,” Mrs Hancock said.

‘Not an accurate picture’

Stewart Todd, general manager of Narrabri Shire Council and president of LG Professionals NSW says general managers are paid in line with the scope of their role in delivering services and outcomes for the community.

Stewart Todd

“A general managers role is extremely complex and they are often responsible for 50 or more different services to the community,” he told Government News.

Mr Todd says it is very much for elected representatives to determine remuneration for general managers and LGPro is opposed to handing that function over to an independent body.

“The elected representatives are in the best place to understand the council’s vision, the expectations of the general manager, the expectations and pressures of the role and the desires of the community,” he said.

Mr Todd also questioned denies the minister’s claim that there is community concern about levels of pay for local government general managers.

“We will make a submission following consultation with our members,” he sad.

“The association holds concerns that the paper released does not represent an accurate picture of comparison of remuneration.”

Caps also considered for senior staff

The consultation paper also looks pay received by senior staff, saying that in some NSW senior staff receive higher remuneration than general managers in other councils.

“Placing caps on general manager remuneration, to ensure fairness, may necessarily lead to placing caps on the remuneration of other senior staff members to ensure that the general manager continues to be the highest paid staff member in a council,” the paper says.

“Otherwise, councils may find it difficult to attract individuals to more complicated and demanding general manager roles when an individual can occupy a higher paying but lower level senior staff role at another council.”

Queensland Councils, like their NSW counterparts, also have complete discretion regarding remuneration of their general managers.

In that state remuneration for general managers ranges from $100,000 to almost $799,000.

Queensland’s highest paid general manager takes home between $700,000 and $799,000, followed by Gold Coast City Council’s GM who pockets $600,000 – $700,000.

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12 thoughts on “Govt weighs capping pay for general managers

  1. Many NSW Local Council general managers are out of control interpreting the NSW local government Act to suit their ideals not those of the communities who employ them. They dictate and bluff the elected on many occasions. Are they really necessary?

  2. This story again highlights the out of touch world people employed in these roles live in. It appears they genuinely believe their own hype. If the ratepayers of each Council was surveyed for their opinions on value for money they receive from these people I am sure the results would devastate their overly inflated egos of their self worth!

    Council Officers need to remember they are employed to serve the people of their Council LGA and the very large majority of the people do not believe they are getting any value for their money, rather they are just being taken advantage of by greedy individuals only focusing on their personal lives and prosperity.

    Shame on them and the elected councillors who support this system.

    1. Backward thinking that is unfortunately too common in local government. It has led to the predicament we are in – a community who only see what the media deem newsworthy and so don’t see any value from council executives.

      Another nail in the coffin – watch the executives worth their salt leave to better paying industries. First lumping local government with dpie now this.

      I’m all for getting value for tax payer dollars, but link salaries with performance and complexity of the role, not some arbitrary figure or cap…

      1. the other side of this story thats missing is the abuse that GM’s and Senior staff cop from Cr’s with a political agenda or the public who are experts on everything

  3. After 9 years as a Councillor , my understanding is that the all of the staff except for Directors and the GM are on an award based pay. The GM sets the pay for the Directors and their contracts and its only the GM package that is determined by a panel of Councillors who are usually dominated by the mayor, with a predetermined outcome and for some reason the package is always higher that the previous GM and that does include a bonus even when the council is running deficit budgets.
    There is no accountability and no consequences for the senior staff even if the financials turn to custard. If it was private enterprise some of them would be unemployed . If Councillors get too involved in determination of staff salaries they are likely to be threatened with a COC.

    1. No accountability? As a Councillor the detail provided to you monthly and quarterly is immense. That would not and does not happen in the glorious private sector. I guess you run a fruit shop?

  4. In Western Australia there are bands of payment scales which Councillors use to pay the CEO which are relative to the size of the the Local Govt. Councillors should not have to make the decision on anything outside this framework.

  5. There’s some GM positions where you could never be paid enough and conversely there are GMs paid more than they would ever be worth!

  6. Been down this road. Wages got out of hand with forced amalgamation of Councils in Queensland. Salaries now just proportional to “gross collection of rates” and nothing to do with “productivity performance”.

    The CEO doesn’t run the show by them self and relies on the “bench” of ” under- Directors” to play support roles. An interesting study is to go from council to council and just have a look at the professional experience and qualification of all those occupying the top shelf. There is a vast difference. Highly qualified people simply do not want to live and work in regional Australia.

    Sadly, money to pay salaries does not come from state of federal taxes, or royalties from coal and iron ore exports. It comes mainly from the “pre-taxed” earnings of mum and dad rate payers.

    MP get a pay rise, and that flows to elected Councillors. Council workers then put up their hand saying: “You got a rise – we should get a rise”. Mean while rate payers simply get a “black eye”.

    Now every man and his dog wants a council job.

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