Which councillor costs the most?
IT’S the secret Tweed Shire Council apparently does not want the public to know – which councillors claim the most expenses and how much.
The council’s biggest spenders can splash the cash without the public finding out which individuals were the greatest users of ratepayer dollars because of a new rule that restricts public information to the total amount of expenses claimed by all seven councillors.
There was no such secrecy during the elected council of 1999 to 2004, when a public breakdown of expenses showed former councillor Wendy Marshall was a stand- out leader in spending after claiming $34,678 in expenses over four years.
At the current average rate of spending of more than $12,000 a year each, the present councillors appear set to exceed that by at least 33 per cent by the end of their term.
According to Mayor Warren Polglase the figures only appear that way because of a change in accounting procedures which means the wages of the mayor’s and councillors’ personal assistant are now included in the total expenses.
The council’s corporate governance manager Neil Baldwin said the total amount of expenses claimed by councillors since the September election was listed in the publicly-available annual report and was $86,225.
But he said councillor-by-councillor details of the claims were not publicly available.
Mr Baldwin said such a breakdown of expenses would be complicated because some councillors claimed phone costs and others used council-supplied phones.
Cr Polglase said the lack of such a breakdown was simply a change in process.
“It’s not done that way any more,” he said, while adding he was sure individual councillors were spending far less than in 2004.
Cr Polglase released a breakdown of the types of expenses claimed by all councillors last financial year, which included:
General “provisions and expenses” including the personal assistant’s wages, travel, meals and the mayoral vehicle: $86,225
Office equipment: $3514
Telephone calls: $7725
Conferences and seminars: $18,438
Interstate visits representing the council: $1432
The fees paid to councillors and the mayor as their remuneration added another $107,293 – bringing the total cost to ratepayers for the seven councillors to $229,326.
Earlier this week Cr Skinner called for councillors to limit their trips away to conferences in the wake of expense claims which he claimed were “exorbitant”.