LIV­ING LARGE

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - IAN ROYALL AND BRIT­TANY SHANA­HAN JOHN MASANAUSKAS

SPE­CIAL RE­PORT

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

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