Tuesday, May 23, 2006

City Council goes shopping

Ratepayers foot the bill of extravagance unchecked

Melbourne's Herald Sun exposes and extra-ordinary tale of City Council Staff spending ratepayers money on a world shopping tour.

This information was only made available following the publication of the Councils travel register which records the costs of staff and councillor's interstate and overseas travel.

We are just beginning to know why the City Council was prepared to go all out - no expenses spared - to avoid publication of this public document.

What's worst is that the Staff tried to compromise one councillor by inviting then to join them on this shopping tour.

Enough is enough. If John So and his team are unwilling or unable to bring the administration in line and keep their hands out of the cookie jar then there is need for more restrictions and control to avoid ratepayers money being wasted on this sort of junkets, misuse and abuse.

The City administration are out of control and and show no remorse.

Its time for the restoration of open and transparent governance open the administration held more accountable. John So and our elected Council sadly have failed us in this respect.

Corruption begins to flourish when information is denied and were accountability stops.

Glitz blitz on the public purse
Jen Kelly
city editor

A LAVISH shopping junket to New York, Paris and London's ritziest stores for two bureaucrats emptied the public purse of at least $33,000.

The pair enjoyed a shopaholic's dream with stops in posh Saks Fifth Ave, Louis Vuitton and glamorous Madison Ave boutiques in New York. In London, they visited expensive Harrods and Selfridges, and in Paris, the palatial Galeries Lafayette and famous Le Bon Marche.

Itinerary notes for London included "look at how Harrods has stayed so popular" and "walk down Oxford St visiting and discussing different retail concepts".

Ratepayers are furious at the waste of money.

Cr Fiona Snedden had been expected to join the world shopping tour, but took a $9369 seven-day ratepayer-funded trip to China instead.

Melbourne City Council ratepayers footed a $17,441 bill to send marketing officer Kristy Taylor on the 10-day whirlwind junket to compare overseas and local shops.

It cost ratepayers $3169 -- almost $800 a night -- for Ms Taylor's four nights at the stylish Hudson Hotel in New York, including meals.

Her bill included another $3248 for seven nights at the upmarket London Green Park Hilton Hotel in Mayfair.

Ms Taylor, the council's program manager, destination marketing, also swiped her council-funded credit card for costly restaurant meals.

And taxpayers paid about $16,000 to send a State Government bureaucrat to join Ms Taylor on the "global retail mission" in October.

Ratepayers also effectively funded the estimated $16,000 bill of a third member of the tour, a delegate from retail trend forecaster the Future Laboratory.

The council and State Government paid $50,000 each to the Future Laboratory to help develop a retail strategy for Melbourne, and the world tour was a central component of that project.

The third delegate's costs raised the bill to the public to almost $50,000.

Small Business Minister Andre Haermeyer spokeswoman, Claire Miller, at first declined to disclose the cost of the state bureaucrat's trip, but confirmed last night it was $16,200.

The city council also confirmed the cost of each delegate's trip was about $16,000.

Ms Miller refused to name the official, a non-executive officer from the Office of Manufacturing and Service Industries in the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development.

A fourth and final tour delegate, from the GPT Group, the owner of shopping mecca Melbourne Central, did not receive public funding.

Council documents show Ms Taylor enjoyed an extra one to two nights in New York and an extra three to four nights in London beyond the time required for the shopping tour.

Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara has slammed the junket.

"They go on these junkets, but it's not the city council that are running shops. They're not selling anything," he said.

"They'd be better off subsidising retailers to do the trip if they feel it's to their advantage.

"The retailers are better qualified to make comments on the retail market than the council."

The retail strategy, supposed to be released last month, is yet to surface. The council said it would now be released by July.

The council said the strategy aimed to position Melbourne as Australia's leading retail city.

Ms Miller said it was important to assess other leading retail centres to understand emerging trends and opportunities.

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