How much would a full-time city councillor be paid? Councillor van Holst wants to know

Is the role of city councillor part-time? Full-time? Or something unique?

Council sets its own pay, so determining workload expectations and fair financial compensation for municipal politicians has prompted some uncomfortable debates during previous terms of office — Here we go again.

“I’ve always been interested in having us with a full-time council, like all the other cities our size,” Councillor Michael van Holst tells CTV News.

In a letter to council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee, van Holst praises a recent decision to shift the start time of city council meetings from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m. next term because it better aligns with the working hours of civic administration.

“In some reports comparing municipalities, that is called a full-time council,” he writes. “To continue the dialogue (or rule out the idea altogether), we need to know the remuneration of a full time councillor.”

His letter then suggests directing the Council Compensation Task Force to determine an appropriate stipend for a councillor who keeps primarily daytime hours.

“There’s never an ideal situation that works for everybody, however to be able to hash out what’s the best, you need the information,” van Holst says.

“The work is the work regardless of the hours. Changing the time of the meeting doesn’t change the work,” asserts former City Councillor Sandy Levin, who sat on a previous council compensation task force.

Levin argues that the role of a city councillor can not be defined as full-time or part-time.

“There’s nothing in the municipal act that allows a municipality to say, ‘thou shall only be full time on city council’. That to me is the issue and why it’s a red herring,” Levin explains.

In 2017, the previous Council Compensation Task Force recommended raising councillors’ pay to the median full time employment income in London, $47,805.

Inflationary increases have boosted annual compensation to $52,725.

Rather than full-time or part time, the previous task force identified the role of city councillor as “unique.”

Moving the start time of council meetings to 1 p.m. brings them in line with meetings of the Corporate Services Committee, Civic Works Committee and the Audit Committee.

Meetings of the Planning and Environment Committee Meetings, Community and Protective Services Committee, and Strategic Priorities & Policy Committee still meet at 4 p.m.

Levin warns that moving all meetings to daytime hours might prevent people with full-time careers from seeking a seat on council.

“The city is less well served when we are reducing the pool of candidates who can be on city council,” he adds.

“If people were forced to give up their day job to work at city hall (as a councillor), they would need to be paid more,” says van Holst. “We don’t know what that would be, so let’s just find out.”

Strategic Priorities & Policy Committee will be presented with van Holst’s letter on Tuesday.