Slams expense limit rise

TEMPERS flared during a debate about councillor expenses at last week’s council meeting.

A move by Councillor Eddy Sarkis to defer the issue, eventually received unanimous support but discussions got heated during a speech by Councillor Ola Hamed who voiced her opposition to a revised policy draft which proposed increases to some councillor and mayoral expense limits.
Her concerns included proposals to triple the postage stamp and stationary allowances per councillor from $1,000 to $3,000; to increase annual travel expenses per councillor from $3,000 to $5,000; and to replace the existing blanket ban on overseas travel with a requirement to make a business case to the general manager and a full council meeting.
Cr Hamed also questioned the need for the mayor to receive a credit card for “civic expenses”, as well as extra media and support staff, noting the only councillor expense proposed to be cut seemed to be the child care allowance from $5,000 a year to $4,000.
“This is offensive to all mothers, offensive because the carers allowance aims to achieve an increase in the participation of women on the council,” she said.
However in a statement on Friday, general manager Hamish McNulty noted that the expenses policy was due for review, and that the draft document had been prepared by council staff, not councillors.
He said that no decision had been made, with councillors voting to “defer discussion on the policy as there’s further work to be done on the document”, and he also rejected the suggestion that the council failed to support women.
“This is false,” he said.
“Irrespective of gender or family commitments, we have a responsibility to ensure ratepayer money is spent appropriately.”