Massive pay rises to senior council staff “don’t pass the pub test”, according to an outspoken councillor.
Two Wagga City Council directors were given pay rises of close to $60,000 each last year, less than a year into their contracts with council and bringing their annual salaries to about $240,000.
Councillor Paul Funnell said he first heard about the pay rises from a member of the community and was “outraged” by them.
“This is a pay rise of more than the average Australian’s annual income in one stroke,” Cr Funnell said.
“I’m bitterly disappointed that (councillors) had no knowledge of this, I’m disgusted this has taken place and we were never notified.
“It’s not like these people were poorly paid, they took on contracts for a set rate and to my knowledge nothing changed other than a $60,000 salary increase in a short time frame.”
Wagga Ratepayers Community chief Lynne Bodell said it seemed excessive and believed the community would be unhappy about it.
“Considering all the other costs for council – they talk about funding for roads – I just query their priorities,” Dr Bodell said.
“It concerns me greatly they’re doing these internal wage increases, the private sector needs to justify its costs (but) government seems happy to spend our money and lose sight they’re employed by us.”
Council’s draft budget reveals the total wage bill is predicted to balloon from $44 million to almost $50 million in the next four years, accounting for more than two thirds of rates collected.
According to Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson, the pay rises came after a review of wages conducted by former acting general manager Robert Knight. The total annual salary for Wagga’s three council directors – including superannuation and car allowances – was $722,000 and the trio were all paid “roughly the same amount”, Mr Thompson said, meaning each one earned about $240,000 per year.
“I don’t think that’s a high salary when you look at the business they’re running in terms of government business,” Mr Thompson said. “To perform that role to a high standard they need to have operational expertise… but also governance expertise over and above technical work. (The rises) were done following a performance review and meant all directors are paid a similar amount.”
Mr Knight said he was appointed acting general manager at a challenging time for council and his task was to maintain stability, but he would not discuss specifics.
“At the time my task was maintaining stability and it’s worth noting my appointment was made at a challenging time,” Mr Knight said. “I made the decision in the best interests of the organisation. There was a significant pay gap and bear in mind Wagga competes with the other EvoCities for things like population, staff and industry; it’s incumbent on council that we are equitable.”