Councillor perks are stacking up says letter writer Merv Welsh.
Councillor perks are stacking up says letter writer Merv Welsh.

OPINION: Councillors could save ratepayers $250k by doing this

I DON'T know if Scott Kovacevic and I watched the same workshop yesterday. But I was surprised by the heading for his review on p. 3 of Thursday's The Gympie Times, "Resurrection of 'free for all' debate inches closer".

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It seemed to me that, if General Business is reinstated, it will be a watered-down version of what we (and, I believe, candidates) envisaged before the election. It seems that the Federal Government's tactic of stifling the public's right to know the truth by invoking the threat to "national security" has filtered down to Local Government in the guise of protecting councillors against "conflict of interest".

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Councillors should know if they have a conflict of interest in a matter, and, if they don't, they are not bright enough to represent us.

On the matter of finances, given our straitened circumstances I was surprised by the largesse on offer around the table.

There was the $35,000 for a mid-range SUV for each councillor and a slightly bigger one for the mayor. And $5000 per councillor over the four years for "professional development".

Mayor Hartwig strongly endorsed the director's course ($7000 for the full course from memory) which would "improve their performance as councillors".

With respect, I suggest a small panel of articulate, intelligent ratepayers would gladly do the job for nothing.

Still on the money, councillors are allowed $500 per year for "hospitality" and the Mayor $4000 for that purpose.

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Was there a newspaper allowance of $20 a day in some circumstances, or was that a joke? It must have been.

On a positive note, there was the fiscal restraint and leadership on display by councillors Milne and Jensen.

Both indicated that they would be using their own vehicles and accepting the $8000 per year allowance to cover their use on council business.

If all councillors did the same it would appear to be an up-front saving of roughly $250,000. Ms Jensen also raised the possibility of councillors paying for any professional Development out of their salaries. I don't think there was a rush to join that line.

More good news was that councillors will have offices in the Town Hall. Once we know their contact numbers, we should be able to see them by appointment during working hours Monday to Friday.

Finally, I was puzzled by a frivolous comment by rookie councillor Mr Devereaux. He prefaced a contribution to the vehicle discussion by complimenting Councillor Fredman on his use of the word "plethora" in relation to the latter's mentioning that there were three ("a plethora") of vehicles in his garage.

It was a strange gesture and I couldn't decide whether Mr Devereaux was "taking the Mickey", or just parading his linguistic competence.

I have to admit I called full-time right on eighty minutes.

Merv Welch,

The Palms

Gympie Times


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