Source. Sydney Morning Herald
HOW much do the elected members of local councils spend on themselves out of ratepayers' money? In today's electronic world most now have a mobile phone and a computer or iPad at public expense to help them do their job, but what about other benefits such as mayoral cars, taxis, hospitality and trips to conferences?
This information is tucked away in councils' statutory annual reports which must show the cost of facilities provided to councillors and their expenses.
An analysis of these figures - which do not include mayoral and councillor allowances that typically cost a council another $200,000 to $400,000 a year - shows Camden has Sydney's most frugal councillors, spending just $6592.59 on facilities and expenses in 2010-11.
The biggest spender on councillors is Hurstville, which outlaid $390,604.50 on facilities and expenses last year - down from $446,308 in 2008-09. This included $93,144 on office equipment for the dedicated personal use of councillors, $46,511 on conferences and seminars and $48,259 on dinners before council meetings and other catering. The largest council - the City of Sydney - spent less than $4000 on office equipment.
The next biggest spenders were Fairfield ($234,053), Campbelltown ($222,139) and Holroyd ($212,829, after taking out the cost of citizenship ceremonies). Liverpool stands out among the bigger outer-suburban councils with a modest expenditure of $50,826.
Despite a statutory requirement to provide these figures they are not evident in the recent annual report of Botany Bay Council.
Hurstville Greens councillor Anne Wagstaff put forward a motion some time ago that the ''council is neither to make available, nor serve, any alcohol to councillors or staff prior to the conclusion of all council meetings on any given day''. She was the only one to vote for it.
''We need to support the provision of a phone, a computer or an iPad, and reasonable allowances for a carer, transport and sustenance to encourage and ensure people from all backgrounds, in particular women, consider being a councillor,'' Cr Wagstaff said.
''In setting what are 'reasonable' allowances, councils should be guided by the Australian Tax Office or other similar government standards.
''However, the provision of such items should not be abused, such as claiming the full sustenance allowance when at conferences where plenty of food and refreshments are provided.
''Hurstville's weekend workshops at distant resorts at Terrigal and the Hunter Valley and alcohol with dinner before council meetings are not necessary or appropriate.'' Hurstville council provides a sustenance allowance of $154.80 a day at conferences, even when meals are part of the package. Marrickville councillors follow Tax Office guidelines and are not paid if a meal is provided nor reimbursed for alcohol.