Ethics and governance | Locale Learning

How much does a local councillor get paid?

by | 7 May, 2021

The simple answer is, it depends!

Local councillors are paid an annual fee to perform their civic duties and are also reimbursed for relevant expenses. The person fulfilling the position of Mayor is also paid an additional fee. The amount of the annual fee is set by the the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal. The amount payable depends upon the location and size of the council with significant differences between small rural councils and large metro ones. Any expenses must be paid in accordance with an adopted council policy.

How are annual fees set?

The Tribunal is responsible for reviewing and setting the minimum and maximum annual fee each year. The review for 2022 has recently been completed. Local councils can then fix the annual fee based on this decision. Normally, this is by a council resolution. Where a council does not fix the fee, then the minimum fee is paid.

Ultimately, the category of a council determines the minimum and maximum annual fee payable to councillors and the Mayor. Every three years the Tribunal must review the categories allocated to councils across the State. Councils are differentiated primarily based on their geographic location as well as the other factors. This includes population, the sphere of the council’s economic influence and the degree of regional servicing. The most recent review was completed in 2020.

Broadly, councils are spilt into metropolitan and non-metropolitan, as well as county councils:

Metropolitan councils

  • Principal CBD – Sydney
  • Major CBD – Parramatta
  • Metropolitan large – Bayside, Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Inner West, Liverpool, Northern Beaches, Penrith, Ryde, Sutherland, The Hills
  • Metropolitan medium – Campbelltown, Camden, Georges River, Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, North Sydney, Randwick, Willoughby
  • Metropolitan small – Burwood, Canada Bay, Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Mosman, Strathfield, Waverley

Non-metropolitan councils

  • Major regional city – Newcastle, Wollongong
  • Major strategic area – Central Coast
  • Regional strategic area – Lake Macquarie
  • Regional centre – Albury, Armidale, Ballina, Bathurst, Blue Mountains, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Hawkesbury, Lismore, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Orange, Port Macquarie Hastings, Port Stephens, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Tamworth, Tweed, Wagga Wagga, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly
  • Regional rural – Bega, Broken Hill, Byron, Eurobodalla, Goulburn Mulwaree, Griffith, Kempsey, Kiama, Lithgow, Mid-Western, Richmond Valley, Singleton and Snowy Monaro
  • Rural – All other councils

What are the current annual fees?

The annual fee for councillors and Mayors increased by two per cent on 1 July 2022. This is in line with the rate pegging set by IPART and the increase in public sector wages. Generally, the larger city based councils pay a higher annual fee to elected representatives compared to rural councils.

For example, at the City of Sydney the annual fee for:

  • a councillor will be between $28,190 and $41,340
  • the Mayor will be between $172,480 and $226,960

This can be compared to a rural council like Gunnedah where the annual fee for:

  • a councillor will be between $9,370 and $12,400
  • for the Mayor it will be between $9,980 and $27,060

To find out the annual fee payable to councillors and the Mayor for a specific council, you will need to check the council business papers for any decisions to set the fee.

What else is covered?

In addition to the annual fee, councillors can be reimbursed for expenses incurred whilst performing civic office. Typically, this will include travel costs, professional development opportunities, attendance at conferences and IT equipment. All councillors must provide adequate and reasonable support for costs associated with caring responsibilities. 

Councils also often provide facilities for the elected representatives. For example, a room for councillors to meet or resources for councillor to use.

In this case, each council must adopt a policy about the payment of expenses and the provision of facilities to councillors. This sets out what is covered, what is excluded and how claims can be made. 

Again, to find out what expenses and facilities are covered by a specific council, check the council website and read the latest policy (e.g. Policy on Payment of Expenses and Provision of Facilities to

What about superannuation and tax?

From 1 July 2022 councils will have the option to make superannuation contribution payments for councillors based on the guarantee amount. Despite this change and that the annual fee is subject to tax, it is important to understand that being a councillor is not technically considered employment. Councillors are not entitled to workers compensation or sick pay. 

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