COUNCILLORS are underr fire for jetting to overseas conferences and other junkets funded by ratepayers.
Since November, City of Melbourne councillors have taken seven overseas jaunts, while a further six trips have e been approved.
The total cost is $202,788,, including an estimated $155,000 when Lord Mayor Robert Doyle leads an 11day City of Melbourne business mission to Japan and China in March next year.
In May, Cr Doyle attended a global cities forum in Chicago for a cost of $4426, while deputy lord mayor Arron Wood flew to London in June for The Economist Cities Unbound Conference for $4781.
Other trips included a $3036 cost for Greens councillor Cathy Oke to attend a biological diversity bash in Cancun, Mexico, last De
cember, and she has approval for upcoming trips to Scandinavia and Germany.
A city council spokesman said that local and international travel was integral to capital city councillors representing the interests of “our citizens and stakeholders”.
“In recent years ... travel and trade missions have delivered millions of dollars in investm ment for Melbourne across a range of fields including biotech, urban design and planning, and education,” he said.
The spokesman said every two years the Lord Mayor led a user-pays targeted business mission to Asian cities such as Osaka and Tianjin to support the growth of Melbourne firms in crucial markets.
City of Yarra mayor Amanda Stone was invited to two related sustainability conferences to be held in Taiwan in September and October.
The organisers offered to fully cover the trip, but Cr Stone instead chose to attend a climate change conference in Germany in November at a cost of $2250 to ratepayers.
“Due to the time commitment required to attend these conferences, the mayor has indicated that she is only able to make one overseas trip,” said a report to a Yarra council meeting this month.
Former local government minister Natalie Hutchins, just appointed the Minister for Women role, told the Sunday Herald Sun that she was concerned about the number of foreign trips taken by councillors, and there had to be more openness with the public.
Last week, Melbourne city councillor Nic Frances Gilley was given approval to attend one of the Taiwan conferences, the EcoMobility World Congress, in place of Cr Doyle for a cost to council of $2735.
Also due to attend the Taiwan talkfest on “sustainable urban transportation” is Moreland council mayor Helen Davidson, with the cost of flights and accommodation to be fully met by the organisers.
Moreland councillors last week considered whether the trip should be declared under the council’s gifts and hospitality policy.
Among trips taken by other councils was a $15,000-plus airfares cycling study tour to the Netherlands in June by City of Maribyrnong mayor Catherine Cumming and deputy mayor Sarah Carter.
Maribyrnong council spokeswoman Celia Haddock said the council was focused on extending bicycle infrastructure and safety.
In April, City of Casey mayor Sam Aziz, Cr Wayne Smith and two staff members went on a seven-day “economic partnership delegation” to China costing ratepayers an estimated $16,000.
The City of Casey will install a life-size $50,000 nativity scene at its new Bunjil Place community precinct. Some councillors labelled it a stand against terrorists and a win for “Australian heritage”. The City of Yarra’s commitment to transparency in its current Council Plan removed the words “encourage community involvement in consultation engagements”.
The data also reveals that employee costs are surging, up 5.3 per cent, outstripping both inflation and the 2 per cent rates cap imposed by the state government.
Moonee Valley had the biggest increase in employee costs — up 15.3 per cent — because of the new EBA, increased childcare costs and fewer vacant positions the previous year. Yarracouncilprovides 15 bicycles,someworth as muchas$1500,and nine $4000electricbikes for its staff,eventhough ithas oneofthebiggest car fleets at 114 vehicles.
Manningham council increased its employee wages bill by just 0.5 per cent, the lowest of the 31 councils.
Melbourne has the most employees with 1420, ahead of Wyndham (1316), Casey (1158) and Hume (1099).
Yarra, even though it is one of the smallest councils by population, has one of the highest staff numbers with 839.
Darebin council spent $35,000 on food for meetings in just one year.
not “proud” of the “shock and shame” he caused to Sharon and their three children.
Speaking to magazine he confessed: “When I was a crazy f---er, I’m lucky she didn’t walk out.
“Now I’m coming on five years clean and sober, and I’ve realised what a f---ing idiot I was.
“I mean, I’m still nuts, but in control of it a bit more.”
Knox council spent $1.1m on seven unisex toilet blocks, even though many women are deterred from using them, saying they are unsafe and unclean.
City of Melbourne councillors racked up $300,000 in expenses, such as taxis and mobile phones, over four years.
US baseball for Cr Do yle.
FrankstoncouncilF put50piecesof streets furniture into WellsStrevamp,W its $5.5 million including18 stainless-steels planter $8670each,11public $ boxesat $14,000each,four $ seatsat circular seats at $12,820,and17street $1 $19,000each.$1 lights at