Defending council decisions is a costly exercise

Councillors have hit back at claims they are overspending council's legal budget.
Councillors have hit back at claims they are overspending council's legal budget. Scott Powick

COUNCILLORS have hit back at claims they are overspending council's legal budget to defend at least five decisions in the Land and Environment Court.

Following a report in the Tweed Daily News last week about ongoing legal costs, Councillor Chris Cherry sought to explain the current expenditures further.

"The financial costs for the 2016-2017 year were high at $933,000 but certainly not as high as they have been in the past,” Cr Cherry said.

"When you do a breakdown of the costs for the 2016-17 year, most of those costs relate to legal cases entered into by the previous set of councillors and have nothing to do with the new council.”

Cr Cherry said the council had a responsibility to defend its decisions, regardless of when they were made.

"Of the $933,000, around $552,000 was spent by the previous council and $381,000 by the current councillors,” she said.

"But $155,000 of that $381,000 was spent defending a decision of the previous council and $62,500 was spent obtaining legal advice prior to council making decisions.

"Council will defend the planning controls that our community have put in place.

"We will challenge landowners who create environmental destruction or unacceptable impacts on neighbours.”

Meanwhile, some ratepayers have shared their frustration on social media about the ongoing legal costs.

Facebook user Catherine Baker said she wanted council to listen to the advice of staff when assessing development applications.

"If a person (or) company puts in a DA with the council that meets all requirements it should be passed,” she wrote.

However, council's planning director Vince Connell said it wasn't unusual to see a number of decisions challenged in court.

"We have quite a lot of applications in at the moment, so relative to that, it's to be expected,” Mr Connell said.

Topics:  land and environment court tweed shire council

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