It’s bread and but­ter pol­i­tics

Coun­cil­lor’s sand­wich cru­sade

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

HE’S the man who wants to cut the free coun­cil sand­wich and make coun­cil­lors earn an hon­est crust.

Cafe owner and rookie coun­cil­lor Matthew Black­more has pledged to put an end to fat cat coun­cils gorg­ing on the ratepay­ers’ purse.

Mr Black­more said in the two months since he joined Strath­field Coun­cil he had been gob­s­macked by the “ban­quets” and “ex­trav­a­gance”. At one re­cent train­ing meet­ing there were nine plat­ters of food for 12 peo­ple.

“Cheese­boards, fruit plat­ters, hot plat­ters with slid­ers and cala­mari, wraps and sand­wiches, an­tipasto plat­ters — it was all there and more than half was left over,” he said. “There have been at least one or two plat­ters not eaten at ev­ery­thing I have been to.”

Now, amid a state govern­ment crack­down on coun­cil largesse, Mr Black- more has promised his fel­low coun­cil­lors he will stop eat­ing any food paid for by ratepay­ers and is call­ing on all NSW coun­cil­lors to fol­low his lead.

Mr Black­more’s mo­tion to re­view the cater­ing at coun­cil meet­ings was passed unan­i­mously at the Novem­ber 7 Strath­field Coun­cil meet­ing. The re­view is ex­pected to come back to coun­cil early next year.

How­ever fel­low coun­cil­lors said they were re­luc­tant to give up the tra­di­tion of a ratepayer-funded sup­per.

Deputy Mayor Nella Jones took ex­cep­tion to Mr Black­more’s prom­ise not to at­tend coun­cil sup­pers for the next three years.

“If you feel so strongly about it, you can bring what­ever your heart de­sires (to coun­cil sup­pers),” she told the meet­ing. “Get­ting to­gether for sup­pers is a good thing. If you have a heated de­bate at coun­cil you can go back and make up.”

While Strath­field Coun­cil re­fused to re­lease its an­nual cater­ing bill, Mr Black­more said it sits at about $10,000 a year.

By con­trast, City of Syd­ney charged ratepay­ers $37,465 in 2016-17 and south­ern Syd­ney’s Ge­orges River Coun­cil proved one the most gen­er­ous, charg­ing ratepay­ers $65,000 a year for “suit­able buf­fet meals”.

In­ner West Coun­cil Mayor Darcy Byrne poured scorn on Mr Black­more, say­ing he shouldn’t be squab­bling about “who gets what for tea”.

Mr Black­more’s call for aus­ter­ity comes as the state govern­ment last month re­leased a new draft code of con­duct for staff and coun­cil­lors in lo­cal govern­ment.

Un­der the rules, coun­cil­lors and may­ors can­not ac­cept “cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity” or other gifts val­ued at more than $50. There is an ex­emp­tion for meals, which are part of coun­cil meet­ings.

Coun­cil­lor Matthew Black­more wants to end the free­bies. Pic­ture: Sam Rut­tyn

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