DRC Mayor open to pay changes, but not sure about punishing absent councillors

Dubbo Region Mayor Ben Shields.
Dubbo Region Mayor Ben Shields.

Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields has questioned the practicality of making changes to the payment of councillors after Narromine Shire Council moved a motion that meant councillors would not be paid for meetings they didn't attend.

Narromine Shire Mayor Craig Davies voiced his support for the motion, saying that it ensured councillors would perform their duties to the community.

Cr Shields noted that a previous push by himself to introduce a similar ruling in Dubbo had met with legal roadblocks.

"I don't think that's legal under the local government act, I first raised that idea back in the mid 2000's, the advice I had at the time was that it wasn't legal," Cr Shields.

Cr Shields said he broadly supports the underlying principle, but that the difficulties in implementing it are one reason why Dubbo hasn't made the same changes.

"That was the case in the previous act in 1993, councillors were paid per meeting. I think there is merit to a lot of it, but again, it comes down to the state government's legislation."

Cr Shields also said that the bulk of the work councillors do isn't necessarily taking place in their monthly meetings.

"They have to look at it holistically, and not just meetings of council where members meet for a couple of hours every month, but also the ongoing interaction with the public and with staff," Cr Shields said.

"I think you're always going to have councillors who put a lot of work in and some that don't, and it should be noted that there are some who put a lot of work in but don't get a lot of representation in the media."

"I know for a fact that there are a lot of councillors even in Dubbo council who work very hard but are media-shy."

"Being a councillor is about more than just attending the monthly meeting of council, the most important thing a councillor can do is engage with the public on a one on one basis," Cr Shields said.

"How you pay that, I'm not sure."

Cr Shields also noted that he wasn't opposed to the measure on principle, and would be interested in making other changes to how councillor's are paid.

"I think Craig does raise a valid point, there's probably a lot of reform that could be done when we're looking at councillor renumeration and pay."