Roaming councillors clock up travel miles

TWEED Shire councillor Warren Polglase has suggested the council should start its own travel agency because councillors are going to so many conferences in other cities.

His comment came after Mayor Joan van Lieshout used her casting vote at Tuesday's meeting to ensure the council pays the way of Tweed Tourism CEO Phil Villiers to a tourism conference next month at Kiama on the NSW south coast in March.

“The way we are going I think we should open our own travel agency,” Cr Polglase told the council meeting.

With Cr Kevin Skinner absent because he was at a flood confer- ence in Albury with engineering chief Patrick Knight, a proposal by Cr van Lieshout that the council send Mr Villiers in addition to herself to the tourism conference ran into troubled waters.

The vote was initially tied, with councillors Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Dot Holdom against paying Mr Villier's way.

That will cost the council $599 for conference registration plus charges for travel and accommodation which will depend on the bookings yet to be made.

Cr van Lieshout used her mayoral casting vote to ensure Mr Villier's way was paid by the council in place of the expenses she would have incurred.

Cr van Lieshout said she would attend but pay her own way.

Yesterday Cr Polglase said he made the comment about setting up a travel agency “mainly because of the Phil Villier's issue”.

“I have no trouble with Phil going to the conference, but it should be paid by Tweed Tourism,” he said, adding that the organisation already received about $400,000 per year from the council.

“We have had more councillors travel around in the first six months of this council than in two years of the last council.”

Other upcoming potential bookings for a future council travel agency would include a “training conference” for councillors in Coffs Harbour over two days in late March which new Greens Party councillor Katie Milne has been authorised to attend.

Last year the mayor also attended a four-day conference in Melbourne which discussed the constitutional role of local government councils.

Cr Polglase warned he intended going through council finances “with a fine-tooth comb” in the run-up to annual budget discussions.

He said he was particularly concerned by figures in the latest quarterly budget review which show the costs of providing a mayoral secretary have blown out by $32,176 to a total $114,951.

Acting corporate services director Michael Chorlton said the figure included secretarial assistance for the council's gen- eral manager.

Mr Villiers could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Kiama conference he is to attend has been given the title “Creating a Strong Foundation in Tourism” and is to be held from March 10 to March 12.

The conference website says it includes a visit to the nearby Jamberoo Park which is promoted as “NSW's biggest fun park”.

“Located just over an hour south of Sydney” it offers “non-stop entertainment with all the thrills and spills you can handle.”

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