Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Should we limit local government pay as well?

On Monday, John Key announced that he would be legislating urgently to remove the unjust pay rise given to MPs' by the Remuneration Authority. I've already attacked the process National is using, and today we have a perfect reason to do it better: because Auckland Mayor Len Brown wants to look at local government pay as well:

Auckland mayor Len Brown and other local politicians have called for their pay to be reined in by the Government.

Extending pay reforms to include elected representatives in local government has drawn support from Mr Brown, deputy mayor Penny Hulse and right-leaning councillors Dick Quax and Cameron Brewer.


But Mr Brown and Ms Hulse have confirmed to the Herald support for the review being extended to cover local body representatives.

"At a time we are trying to keep average rates increases as close to the rate of inflation as possible, this makes absolute sense," Mr Brown said.

They have a point. In Auckland, at least, local body politicians seem to be paid well enough already and not need the enormous pay rises the Remuneration Authority will give them in a misguided belief that they're corporate CEOs or bankers. But Auckland isn't our only local body, and pay scales vary depending on the size of a local body; while Auckland's mayor may be paid well enough (and seriously, quarter of a million, or quarter of an Auckland house a year, is "enough" by any reasonable measure), the same may not be true of Hamilton's - or Stuart Island's. The issue is complicated enough that a simple one-line patch to the law might not work; it requires careful consideration, both before a bill is introduced and in select committee (where the public will very definitely have an opinion on whether mayors and councillors are paid enough).

John Key's abuse of urgency is specifically designed to prevent that consideration. He's not interested in giving us a proper say in how well he and his ilk should be paid, and the balance between the competing needs of preventing corruption and ensuring representatives are still connected to the people they purport to represent, rather than existing in the 1%'s bubble. There's no upside for him in debating the wider issues (which also touch on inequality in our society and how MPs pay contributes to it). Key just wants to stem some bad PR as quickly as possible and move on.

But if we want to stem inequality and social exclusion by and of our MP's, we need to have that conversation. Maybe someone should talk to Brown and do a member's bill on the topic...