Much discussion around the dinner table this week centred around the wage rise for the mayor and councillors on Newcastle City Council and why their pay is notionally higher than their counterparts on the Lake Macquarie City Council.

Newcastle’s seven Labor councillors voted in a bloc on Tuesday night to grant themselves a 16 percent pay rise, increasing lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes’ mayoral allowance from $76,397 to $95,000, a rise of 24 percent. The mayor also receives a councillor’s pay, up from $26,213 to $30,500, taking her overall remuneration from $102,610 to $125,500.

In comparison, Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser receives $84,330, plus additional councillor’s fees of $28,950, giving her a total salary of $113,280 annually, $12,200 less than Mayor Nelmes in Newcastle.

The difference in fees for councillors is minimal; Newcastle City $30,500 yearly and Lake Macquarie City Council $28,950.

It all comes down to the classification of councils and the annual fees set down by the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal which categorises councils according to the land size, population, industrial activity, existence of universities and other infrastructure.

From this perspective, Newcastle is categorised as a Regional City and Lake Macquarie City Council a Regional Strategic Area, hence the difference in the pay scale for the two council areas.

A spokesperson for Lake Mac Council said, “Councillors voted at the Ordinary Meeting in June to accept the mayor and councillor fees recommended by the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal for the 2017/18 financial year. This is consistent with the practice of past Councils.

“The tribunal this year re-categorised Lake Macquarie City Council from a metropolitan centre to a Regional Strategic Area, in acknowledgement of the size and importance of the City. This resulted in a higher level of remuneration for the Mayor and councillors.”

The LGRT said the reduction in council numbers, due to amalgamation, from 152 to 128, has resulted in an estimated maximum saving on the overall cost of councillor fees in NSW of $2.5million.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said recently that the fee for her position was in line with that of a full-time job. “It’s certainly that, and a little more at times,” said the busy mayor who spends her days, weekends, and some evenings, at meetings and events travelling from one side of Lake Macquarie to the other.