Councillors add to their expenses
IN just the first nine months after their election in September last year Tweed councillors traversed the breadth of Australia to attend conferences which added to their mounting expenses bill.
While individual councillor’s expenses are no longer being made public, a list of conferences each attended is available.
Those conferences between the September election and June 30 this year were spread from the top to the bottom of mainland Australia – Darwin to Melbourne.
Earlier this week Cr Kevin Skinner called for councillors to limit their trips away in the wake of expense claims which he said were “exorbitant”.
In the period since the September election until June 30 the most-travelled councillor was the then mayor Joan van Lieshout.
She attended a Local Government constitutional summit in Melbourne in December, a tourism conference in Kiama in March, a NSW Shires Association conference plus a Local Government forum in Sydney in June and the National General Assembly for the Australian Local Government Association in Canberra in June.
Then deputy mayor Barry Longland attended the shires conference as well as going to the Queensland Coastal Conference at Seaworld on the Gold Coast in May and a Koala Conservation conference in Lismore the same month.
Cr Katie Milne went to the same koala conference, to the NSW Coastal conference in Wollongong in November and the Local Government assembly in Canberra in June.
Cr Dot Holdom went to the NSW Community Climate Summit in Sydney in February and the National Planning Institute of Australia congress in Darwin in March. She said yesterday she did not ask for fares, meals or accommodation costs in Darwin as she had been visiting a family member.
Current mayor Cr Warren Polglase, who was then a “backbench” councillor, went to the shires conference and the Local Government Managers’ Forum also in Sydney on successive days in June.
Cr Kevin Skinner attended a flood management conference in Albury in February.
Cr Phil Youngblutt went to none.
Cr van Lieshout said yesterday Cr Skinner’s claims that expenses were exorbitant was “over the top” and councillors need to attend conferences to “increase our knowledge”.
“In our position that’s part of training,” she said.
She added she had only ever claimed for accommodation and “one or two meals” – and had “no problems with the public knowing how much I spend on conferences going away”. She was surprised the council would not make public the details on how much each councillor spends.
“I think that’s a right of the public to know,” she added.