Fair and equal pay are basic principles determining appropriate remuneration. Yet expectations that locally elected representatives are motivated by community service justify token compensation. This article presents data from a survey of councillors in New South Wales about the adequacy of current remuneration against the expectations and time commitment of the role. It finds: the majority of councillors feel under-compensated for the time they devote to the role; some councillors had unmanageable workloads during the COVID-19 pandemic, and; variations in pay scales across local government areas only partially correspond with differences in volume and complexity of work. Most critically, low pay directly impacts the quality of representation by curtailing the hours councillors can commit to council work. The article argues that ‘recognition’ needs to be a core principle in determining councillor pay. Current levels both under-recognise what local elected representatives do, and the importance of local government for democracy.