Councillors in Sydney’s southwest have voted to give themselves a pay rise that would leave them with an annual salary of $27,650 and the mayor $73,440.
Camden Council voted in favour of the pay increase during Tuesday night’s meeting where a submission was recommended to be made to the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal.
The raise is in the range of 4 to 5 per cent and, if approved, would increases the annual salary of councillors and the mayor by about $1400 and $3600 respectively.
While the roles of councillors and mayor are considered important in the community, they are not full-time jobs in NSW.
The move comes after recent Digital Finance Analytics research found that Camden was among regions experiencing the most elevated levels of mortgage stress, even before the most recent cash rate increase.
2GB journalist Chris O’Keefe said he was “suspicious” that councillors had avoided his inquiries since making the decision on Tuesday night and questioned whether the matter should have been put to the Camden constituents first.
“You got to remember, it’s a part-time job,” he said.
O’Keefe spoke to current and past residents of the Camden area who consistently said the council’s services were far superior to others in Sydney and the rates lower.
“I’ve got no dramas with the council with what they do,” one caller, named John, said on Wednesday morning.
“Our parks are always clean, our council land is always mowed, the three bins get taken every week.
“But I don’t think in this day and age right now as we all are, I don’t think anybody deserves a pay rise.
“I’m flat out working to get $60,000 a year. I ask for a pay rise and they say ‘don’t even think about it’.”
In its draft submission to the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal, the council argued that the pay rise was warranted given the rapidly growing population of the area.
“The 2021 census data for the Camden Local Government Area (LGA) revealed that the population was 119,325, and Forecast.id has estimated that in 2041 the population will be 241,172,” the submission read.
“This is an increase on the current population of approximately 100 per cent.
“The exponential population growth is having a significant impact on the nature, volume and complexity of business that council deals with and the services it provides and places substantial pressure on council’s finances and resources.
“The workload and obligations on council’s mayor and councillors have increased accordingly and will continue to do so rapidly for the foreseeable future.”
In Tuesday’s meeting Camden Mayor Ashleigh Cagney also called for the reconsideration of previous plans to increase the number of councillors from nine to 12 given current cost constraints.
“The Camden community, like the rest of Australia, is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis due to increases in the price of goods and services such as groceries, petrol and energy,” she wrote in her mayoral minute.
“Funding to hold the constitutional referendum and to pay for a potential increase in the number of councillors from 2028 onwards could instead be used to support delivery of services to our community, especially in the current challenging times.”
Camden Council has been contacted for comment.