May 11, 2020
South Burnett councillors have voted to increase their weekly fuel subsidies by 23 per cent and meal allowances by 42 per cent.
The changes were passed without comment at the SBRC’s April meeting when the latest version of the Expenses Reimbursement Policy for Councillors – last updated in December 2018 – was approved.
By law, all councils are required to have an Expenses Reimbursement Policy which outlines the benefits mayors and councillors receive in addition to their regular salary.
Any updates to the policy must be passed at a public council meeting.
At April’s meeting, councillors voted to increase the weekly fuel subsidy: Division 3 and 4 councillors will now receive $100 each per week (up from $80 and $92); Division 1 and 2 councillors $180 per week (up from $140); and Division 5 and 6 $250 per week (up from $200).
The meeting also voted to increase the meal subsidy – paid when Councillors are away on official Council business – to $35 per breakfast (up from $25); lunches to $50 (up from $35); and dinners to $100 (up from $70).
To claim the allowances, councillors must supply receipts.
The new Expenses Reimbursement Policy was moved by Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones, seconded by Cr Roz Frohloff, and carried unanimously.
Councillors’ salaries are set each year by the independent Local Government Remuneration Commission but councils are free to set extra benefits at whatever level they like.
In November, the Remuneration Commission determined the salaries of Queensland’s mayors and councillors should rise by 2 per cent from July 2020.
The Remuneration Commission said this increase reflected average CPI rises across Australian capitals over the previous year, and was in line with increases already set in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.
These increases will set the SBRC’s annual mayoral salary at $133,196; deputy mayor at $83,247; and councillors at $70,759.
However – like other councils – the SBRC also provides a range of extra benefits to councillors to cover the cost of doing their jobs.
These include a uniform allowance of $330 per year; a hospitality allowance ($2000 a year for the mayor and $500 a year for councillors); a phone allowance ($3000 a year for the mayor, $2000 a year for councillors); meal costs; and a weekly allowance to cover fuel and reasonable wear and tear on a councillor’s private vehicle.
Councillors also receive a range of non-cash benefits including professional development; insurance cover; legal cover; travel, accommodation and car parking costs if councillors need to leave the region on official council business; and office facilities, computers and mobile phones.
The mayor is entitled to the use of a fully serviced council vehicle at no charge but Mayor Brett Otto has relinquished this benefit.
Mayor Otto has been approached for comment on the new reimbursement policy.