How much do they spend?
How much do they spend? Barry Leddicoat

Councillor expenses open book

EACH year we'll be able to tell you how much each local councillor is spending in expenses and how many meetings they've attended.

While Clarence Valley councillor Andrew Baker attempted a last-minute push to make the report cards available on a monthly basis rather than annually, his suggestion was rejected by the majority at Tuesday night's ordinary meeting.

However, all were happy for their individual expenses to be publicly available.

The decision came after The Daily Examiner last month asked for a more detailed breakdown of councillor expenses, which is currently only supplied in one lump sum in the annual report.

While most councillors wrote to the general manager agreeing for their individual expenditure to be released, some declined, meaning the only way to access the information was through filing a General Information (Public Access) request. The issue then appeared on the council agenda this month.

In his report to councillors, general manager Scott Greensill said: "The publication of expense details has not previously been the subject of public complaint or concern.

"As a body responsible for a budget turnover of approximately $170 million per year and with an asset base of $1.7 billion, the total annual councillor expense (bill) of about $80,000 is nominal."

Cr Howe asked what level of detail would be in the attendance schedule.

"Will we go all the way down to 'the mayor was unable to attend the game of tiddlywinks on the river, and can you go for him,' or will it just be major events?" he asked at Tuesday's meeting after bemoaning the extra paperwork it would cause him.

Cr Andrew Baker, however, was quite happy with the move as it had already reminded him of at least one unclaimed expense. Indeed, he was so happy he said he wanted the reports to be available on a monthly basis.

"If we are doing something to be transparent, I believe we need to do it monthly," he said.

"I believe there's a need, particularly in the year leading up to the election. I gather this has been done for people to see whether their council is worth what they get paid."

Cr Howe was adamant annual reporting would suffice.

"If it's written down, it's transparent," he said. "It's not really that big a deal anyway and here we are spending more time on it."

Councillors Baker, Toms and Challacombe voted against the yearly reporting, but it was carried by the majority.

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