Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A step forward

One of the big problems with local government is gerontocracy: only 6% of local authority members are under 40, while 83% of them are over 50. This doesn't just mean that local government is unrepresentative, it distorts policy outcomes - most notably giving a short term focus on "keeping rates low" (AKA skimping on maintenance and investment and subsidising existing citizens by dumping costs on future ones).

So why is local government so dominated by such a narrow slice of the community, when institutions like Parliament aren't nearly so bad? One of the problems is low wages: small local authorities mean low pay, which is fine for a mortgage-free pensioner as a top-up to their universal superannuation, but impossible for a younger person with commitments. And part of it is that astoundingly, there's no allowance for childcare. Now, the Remuneration Commission is moving to fix the latter:

More young people may put their hands up for spots on local councils this year after the Remuneration Authority announced a proposed childcare allowance policy for local government representatives.


The draft policy offers an allowance of up to $15 per hour for the care of children under the age of 14, while elected representatives are engaged in local authority business. The allowance cannot be paid to family members or anyone who normally resides with the child and is only available for up to eight hours in any 24-hour period.

[Hurunui District councillor Julia] McLean and [Nelson City councillor Matt] Lawrey said they were "ecstatic and relieved" their calls for support had been heard.

"This is a bold step forward from the Remuneration Authority in addressing an issue that will send a strong message to young elected members and others considering standing, you are valued," McLean said.

This obviously won't solve the whole problem of local government gerontocracy, but its a welcome step forward. And hopefully it will enable more representative local government in future.