Friday, July 13, 2007

Million Dollar Entourage

John So's cost of being popular

The Herald Sun has confirmed what we have been saying for the last six years.

John So has no idea of fiscal policies or how to govern. His Deputy Lord Mayor and political advisor is renowned for his financial activities and lack of transparency.

John So has embarked on a care-free spend fest.

So is prepared to tax motorist and Melbourne's business community with immunity.

The City Council is more interested in lurks and perks then holding So to account for his expenditure.

Only last month a Ernst and Young review, in which John So and the Council administration tried to keep secret, exposed the fact that the Council has been in the red for the last two years.

The report was condemning of the Council administration, alleging overt deception in the way in which the Council's finance and governance has been administered.

Designer-a-job is riff within the city council.

The Council had become a private club where senior officers designed themselves a job and their task was empire building. If there was something to their disliking they would employ someone to do the task that they should have done themselves.

Last year the Council also was exposed following a raid by the State Ombudsman. Alison Lyons, Council's legal advisor at the time, tried to thwart the Ombudsman from looking into the affairs of the Council. The Ombudsman found that the Council had acted corruptly and that the Council had extorted millions of dollars of funds from motorist illegally.

John So suffered a limp wrist blow last month when the City Council moved a motion of no-confidence in the Lord Mayor. The motion was lost on the casting vote of John So himself.

Last week former Lord Mayor, City Councillor and Finance Committee Chairperson Kevin Chamberlain called on the State Government to sack the City Council .

What is clear is that the City of Melbourne must undergo a full review in line with other municipalities reviews. Why is Melbourne exempt?

The Member for Melbourne, Bronwyn Pike, had promised during last years State Election camiagn to undertake a review of Melbourne's external boundaries. A promis that saved her seat in parliament.

It's time for the State Government to act on the promises made and to initiate a public review so that any recommendations and findings can be implemented prior to the 2008 council elections.

The proposed review should also reconsider teh merits of the direct election model of te Lord Mayor with further consideration given to creating a expanded rater City for Melbourne.

The State Government's "Do nothing - bury their head in the sand" approach can not continue. Dick Wynn, Minister for Local Government knows the issues well it is time he puts a plan for reform into action

Peter Mickelburough and Ian Royall
Herald Sun
July 13, 2007 12:00am

JOHN SO is the most expensive mayor Melbourne has had.

An Insight investigation has revealed it costs ratepayers up to $1 million a year to keep the mayoral office running.

Cr So, our first popularly elected Lord Mayor, is a cult figure to many Melburnians and last year became the first Australian named World Mayor.


What do you think? Have your say below.

But his office, like other city council departments, has bloated under his leadership.

His trappings of office include seven personal support staff: a full-time chauffeur, a media minder, an on-call speechwriter, an executive assistant, two part-time Pas and a chief of staff.

Cr So's office and councillor expenses were off limits to a team from Ernst & Young called in to review council operations amid growing concerns they had become flabby and inefficient.

John So: Power and passion


The $300,000 review found the Town Hall management was top-heavy and disjointed and identified potential savings of at least $11.4 million.

Scores of staff are being axed across council departments to cut costs and balance the books.

But Cr So's office has been spared the knife. He will retain all his staff, whose annual wages bill alone is estimated to nudge $700,000.

Add to this Cr So's $120,000 annual allowance, expenses bill, and the cost of running his car and supplying his office.

"He certainly costs more than any lord mayor before him," said one observer.

"If you include the many thousands spent on promotions that have a John So appearance clause built into them, it would easily top $1 million a year."

The Lord Mayor yesterday defended the cost of his office and rebuffed his critics.

He said the resources of the mayoral office were for him and his deputy, Cr Gary Singer.

"I'm very conscious of the expenses, and the expenses have been reducing for a number of years," he said.

"All I can is that we are very conscious of the resources that are available to us."

Cr So also said he had called for the Ernst & Young report, saying that tough decisions had to be made as the previous review had been back in 1991.

The Insight investigation also revealed generous perks for the Lord Mayor's chief of staff and close friend Kevin Louey, who is on a package of $140,000.

Cr So said the employment details were a management issue and he was not involved in drawing up Mr Luey's contract.

"I believe he is the best person for the job," Cr So said.

Insight can also reveal that councillors and executives were warned of long-term financial woe two years before the Ernst & Young efficiency report.

Cr So defended the council's spending on marketing, promotions and sponsorships.

They were about stimulating business and bringing people in to the city, he said.

Just this week, councillors were asked to approve $720,000 in sports grants for city events linked to five major sporting events for the coming year. Instead, they signed off on $2.1 million for three years.

Every year until 2010, the council will hand out $100,000 for an international rugby match, $100,000 for the Formula One Grand Prix, $120,000 for the Australian Open tennis, $250,000 for AFL Grand Final week and $150,000 for the Spring Racing Carnival.

The funding was approved despite some earlier disquiet about the wisdom of the council giving cash to wealthy organisations such as the AFL and the Victorian Racing Club year after year.

Cr So said that everything he did was about delivering a balanced budget, stimulating business, and improving the quality of life in the municipality.

"It's my job as Lord Mayor to represent the people of Melbourne," he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are exactly right. Under the recent restructure upper management totally looked after themselves. All the expensive, irrelevant weasels still have their jobs while only hardworking, service providing staff got cut.

Also, take a close look at Council's recent delivery of 5 million dollars to the state government for the convention centre. This was voted through by the lord mayor despite not knowing what the money was to be spent on (as required by the contract), and despite major concerns expressed by Council's traffic engineers about the impacts of the design.

City of Melbourne is run by idiots

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