It’s bread and butter politics
Councillor’s sandwich crusade
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