Council rejects plan to pool travel funds

By Alison Noonan
COUNCILLORS have slammed an attempt to disband their $5000 travel and conference allowance.
Mayfield Ward councillor Kevin Bradford’s bid at Tuesday night’s Casey Council meeting to have councillors’ individual subsidies put into a general allocation was rejected.
He claimed the policy change would help quash perceptions held by some councillors that the funds could be used as their own “personal play money”.
“It is my opinion that because that amount is allocated councillors feel that they have a duty or a right to spend that money,” Cr Bradford said.
“We are the only council that allocates a specific amount of money to each councillor.
“This gives councillors the impression that it is their money to do what they want with.”
Cr Bradford said if the money was left in a general pool and councillors had to go before the council to gain approval for expenditure, it would change the public mindset that not all councillors were looking out for themselves.
“Councillors will still have the opportunity to travel and go on conferences,” he said.
“But it follows the scenario that if you don’t have the money in your back pocket you don’t spend it.
“My point is that just because you have the allocated $5000 it doesn’t mean you have to spend it.”
However, Cr Bradford’s argument was hotly contended by Four Oaks councillor Roland Abraham, who said a general pool of money would create a “slush fund” and enable one person to use all the money while others missed out.
“We already have a policy in place that is accountable and transparent,” Cr Abraham said.
“We are always accountable with our money and I think $5000 each is the right way forward.”
Myuna Ward councillor Brian Oates agreed, saying the current policy prevented “horse trading” where councillors were unable to trade or buy votes for spending money, as had happened in the past.
“It shouldn’t be a case of first in best dressed or some spending all and some not getting anything,” he said.
“It is the responsibility of councillors to spend their travel allowance to learn more in a responsible way.
“We don’t want to become like other councils where they go out to lunch or dinner at council’s expense.
“It is the lessons we have learnt that have brought us here and I think (the current policy) is the fairest, most transparent and accountable way things can be done,” Cr Oates said.
Araluen Ward councillor Rob Wilson said having a $5000 amount was a good thing, claiming a pool of money would allow councillors to spitefully stop other councillors from travelling.
Mayor Neil Lucas also rejected the Cr Bradford’s proposal, saying if he was to view the motion from the eyes of a ratepayer he would assume Cr Bradford was “setting himself up for a trip around the world”.
Cr Bradford said he was disappointed but not surprised the motion was defeated.