Tribunal blocks council re-categorisation

By Paul Hemsley

Council categories in NSW were assessed by the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal, but the submission has been declined until 2015.

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) made the submission to the tribunal to review whether some councils should be re-categorised as ‘metropolitan’ or ‘regional rural’.

Shires Association president, Ray Donald said the categories are based on a number of factors including the local government area’s population, council performance, and sources of revenue and expenditure.

Mr Donald said this review would ensure that councils were accurately categorized.

“However, on this occasion, unfortunately the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal has declined to re-categorise councils,” Mr Donald said.

He said the tribunal has “missed another opportunity” to re-categorise councils, as the next categorisation year is not until 2015.

“As the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal only assesses council categories every three years, it’s now been ten years since the tribunal last agreed to re-categorise a single council in NSW,” he said.

However, the tribunal did pass a 2.5 per cent increase to councilor fees, despite the fact that the increase is less than in previous years, but is in line with the capped wage increases for NSW Members of Parliament.

As such, having local governments in NSW re-categorised would mean financial benefits for council staff.

An LGSA spokesperson said council categories determine the fees that councilors and mayors receive.

“Being re-categorised into a higher category can sometimes mean that councilors and Mayors get paid a higher fee,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said this is not always the case as there is an overlap in the fee structure with the ‘regional rural’ and ‘metropolitan’ categories receiving the same level of fees.

According to the spokesperson, the re-categorisation of councils from ‘regional rural’ to ‘metropolitan’ recognises that these councils are operating at the same or similar level as their Metropolitan counterparts.

The spokesperson said the LGSA will liaise with councils that indicate they would like to seek re-categorisation and provide a thoroughly researched submission with the most recent empirical data relating to the factors used by the tribunal for determination.

The factors that determine re-categorisation are set out in section 241 of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

These factors include the size of the areas, physical terrain, population and distribution of population, nature and volume of business dealt with by each council, area development, community diversity, regional, national and international significance of the council.
According to the spokesperson, expenditure and procurement are generally analysed within the context of: ‘the nature and volume of business dealt with by each council’.

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