GM’s pay deal debate heats up

Angered councillors have slammed a decision made on Monday about the future of the general manager’s pay.

The controversial decision to make the GM’s remuneration package more than a quarter of a million dollars was locked at four-all, which forced Mayor Lindsay Brown to use his casting vote.

Four Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action (ERA) councillors voted against the motion, saying the range should be $220,000 to $250,000, not Cr Brown’s proposal of $260,000 to $280,000.

Previous general manager Paul Anderson’s remuneration was $285,000.

ERA councillors Neil Burnside and Milton Leslight are angry about the result.

“But it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that they’ve pushed this through,” Cr Burnside slammed.

“To do otherwise would be to admit they’ve been paying past general managers too much for years.”

Cr Burnside said what was chosen was “well above” the average of similar-sized councils.

“The average pay for a general manager in our group of councils is between $250,000 and $260,000,” he said.

Crs Burnside and Leslight both said council had been overpaying general managers for years.

They said Bega’s general manager’s annual package was $230,000.

“How can it be that (the manager in) Bega, our next door neighbour, is getting paid $230,000 a year and we’re prepared to be over 20 per cent higher?” Cr Leslight said.

“I think it is irresponsible on our part to be throwing away ratepayers’ money.”

Cr Brown hit back yesterday, saying it was “always difficult” comparing two councils because “no two councils are the same”.

“At the end of the day, we can play with numbers,” he said.

“I think we need to attract the best candidate possible and we need to bait the hook.

“I don’t see it as a cost, I see it as an investment.”

In response to ERA’s comments, he said Bega was currently negotiating its GM’s package, which he said was likely to increase.

During Monday’s meeting Cr Fergus Thomson spoke in favour of the mayor’s proposal and questioned what difference ERA’s push to reduce it by $10,000 to $20,000 would really make.

He said, when compared to council’s total budget, money became irrelevant.

However, Cr Leslight disagreed.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Cr Leslight said.

“Some people don’t get paid $50,000 a year and we’re talking about paying someone an extra $50,000 a year. We’re talking about a grand a week.”

Cr Rob Pollock disputed Cr Burnside’s argument, saying council accepted advice about five years ago, which claimed the Eurobodalla was underpaying its general manager, compared to the average.

Cr Pollock said it was important the shire received the best possible field of applicants it could, and accepted the mayor’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Cr Brown said keeping the figure high was important to not deter potential applicants.

“If we go too low of an amount, we’re not going to attract good applicants,” he said.

“If you’ve got a good general manager from Bathurst, for example, on close to $300,000, he might come across to the coast for $280,000 but probably not for $260,000.

“We can quote numbers, but at the end of the day, what’s a job worth?”

Council will advertise the new permanent general manager’s position this week with a total remuneration package of $260,000 to $280,000 per annum, which will be negotiated depending on the successful candidate’s experience.

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