Coun­cil train­ing, travel costs ques­tioned

The Southland Times - - NEWS - AN­DREW MAR­SHALL

A bud­get de­voted to In­ver­cargill city coun­cil­lor train­ing and travel has been blown with four months still to run in the fi­nan­cial year.

The over­spend, re­vealed in a re­port to yes­ter­day’s meet­ing of the In­ver­cargill City Coun­cil’s fi­nance and pol­icy com­mit­tee, makes up part of a $195,294 deficit re­ported in the demo­cratic re­spon­si­bil­ity bud­get.

Coun­cil­lor Karen Arnold said it was a con­cern the depart­ment was so far over bud­get.

Com­men­tary on re­port said that as the bud­get well as the over­spend on coun­cil­lor train­ing and travel, the ex­tra ex­pen­di­ture was caused by con­sul­tant fees as­so­ci­ated with the SoRDS Pace to Progress ini­tia­tive, costs re­lated to the re­tire­ment of for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard King, and ad­di­tional le­gal fees.

‘‘I’m just won­der­ing, es­pe­cially when you look at Pace to Progress, why we even would have both­ered do­ing that if we ac­tu­ally didn’t have the money to pay for it,’’ Arnold said.

Fi­nan­cial ser­vices man­ager Dale Booth said part of the over­spend was to be funded from re­serves, ‘‘but even tak­ing that into ac­count there is still an over­spend’’.

Arnold then shifted her at­ten­tion to the amount spent on coun­cil­lor train­ing and travel, ask­ing how these items were get­ting ap­proved if their costs were out­side the bud­get.

Fi­nance and cor­po­rate ser­vices di­rec­tor Dean John­ston said part of the over­spend was a tim­ing is­sue, but all train­ing had re­ceived ap­proval.

‘‘Some of the train­ing hap­pens in the first half of the year and you need to spread the bud­get over 12 months, oth­er­wise it’s all cour­ses that have been preap­proved for coun­cil­lors to at­tend.’’

Booth said the spend on coun­cil­lor train­ing and travel was ‘‘at a full year bud­get now ef­fec­tively’’.

Cr Ian Pot­tinger said the coun­cil needed more in­for­ma­tion when bud­gets are ex­ceeded and that the over­spend was a ‘‘mys­tery amount’’ that did not have suf­fi­cient sup­port from the at­tached com­men­tary.

Cr Lind­say Thomas agreed on the com­mit­tee’s need for more in­for­ma­tion.

‘‘This is our bud­get and we’ve blown it to be per­fectly hon­est, so while we’ve blown it, we need to be com­fort­able that it’s pru­dent spend­ing,’’ he said.

John­ston said a more de­tailed re­port would be tabled at the next meet­ing of the com­mit­tee.

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