Secret rules stop public data
WITH a declaration that she is “not there to screw the ratepayers” Tweed Shire Councillor Dot Holdom vowed to end the mystery that surrounds councillors’ expenses by making her own claims public.
That was before new council secrecy rules got in the way.
Cr Holdom was prepared to release a list of the expenses she had claimed in the past financial year in the wake of criticism that some councillors’ expenses had become exorbitant.
But then she was apparently warned by council staff the information “is not publicly available”.
Under secrecy provisions of the council’s controversial and recently-adopted “media code”, the information therefore could not be revealed.
Last week Cr Kevin Skinner criticised the expenses claims of fellow councillors and earlier this week it was discovered that unlike previous councils, the current council was not revealing details of how much each councillor claims.
After seeking details of her own claims from staff Cr Holdom said she could only say she had been “moderate” in her approach to expenses.
But she added they were “under $6000” for the nine months since the council was elected to June 30 this year.
Cr Skinner, who says his reason for raising concerns about expenses was to limit the number of councillors going to each conference and ensure “more bang for your buck”, was also not prepared to break the council secrecy rules.
“I’m not about to divulge that information,” he said. “The amount of money is not the concern.
“It’s not whether it’s a dollar or two dollars or two thousand dollars. I’m interested in stretching the dollar as far as we can.”
Defending her attendance at two conferences last financial year, Cr Holdom said one in Darwin had been mostly at her own cost because she was “already up there” visiting a family member and did not claim for meals, accommodation or airfares.
She supported the attendance of councillors at conferences, saying it was it was a “good thing to go away and see how things are being done differently”.
Cr van Lieshout said councillors needed to increase their knowledge. She added she had only ever claimed for accommodation and “one or two meals”.