Why councillors should be paid a lot more

Recent news about a small increase to the allowance paid by councillors and the Mayor was met with a collective shrug by Geraldton residents. 

The press release from the city was careful to emphasise how little the increase is, and how small the overall amount councillors receive relative to the work they do and the time they contribute. 

But should councillors be receiving so little that they still need to keep their day jobs? Would they not be able to do a better job and devote more time to their work if they were actually paid a decent amount?

Giving money to politicians or elected officials rates only slightly less distasteful than letting paedophiles out of prison, in the minds of many Australians. But our cultural distrust for what are essentially public servants is mostly unmerited in my mind. 

We asked these people to do a job for us that we don't have time to do, namely, facilitating the day to day running of our city and associated services. They're not dictators, monarchs or overlords. They're school teachers, mums, dad, grandparents, small business owners, accountants... everyday local residents like you and me that put their hand up to have a go and help out.

Yet in day to day conversation around town about "the council", more vitriol is thrown towards these everyday people than is warranted. We demand they do a better job, provide more services, get in touch with the public more effectively, reduce rates and cure cancer. 

All the while they must maintain their full time jobs, keep their respective relationships with their significant others in tact, raise children, and remember to get their suits dry-cleaned for the upcoming council meeting in a week's time. 

By not paying councillors a liveable wage, we're depriving ourselves of the very thing we need; dedicated, focused individuals with skin in the game who are available to us and can better inform themselves of the myriad of issues that come across their desks/email inboxes each week. 

It's a thankless task at the best of times, and the care factor level one needs to run for council is much higher than what the average resident posses. Two thirds of us couldn't even be stuffed to go and vote at the last local election. 

It's up to the state government to set the maximum amounts a councillor can be compensated, and at the moment it's not enough to be a full time wage.

And if it were ever increased, we may increase the risk of political parties entering the local government scene like happens over east. 

But I for one would love to know the councillors I elected were actually at the council offices most of the time, providing assistance and guidance to staff as needed.

While I certainly don't have a problem criticising specific decisions made by council, I tip my hat to anyone dedicated enough to put their hand up and have a go at serving the public through this demanding role.