Councillors keep an eye on spending

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Cardinia shire councillors are being more efficient in spending ratepayers’ money, with expenses almost halving since the beginning of the 2013-16 council term.

Councillors claimed $43,607 worth of expenses this year, down from the comparatively expensive $80,189 claimed for the year 2013.

Councillor Graeme Moore partly attributed the dramatic reduction in council spending to anticipation of the future impacts of rate capping legislation.

He said one recent major change has been that the serving of alcohol has been restricted at Cardinia Shire Council VIP meetings and sometimes entirely removed.

“I think we as a council have started to look at costs to be more diligent and efficient,” Cr Moore said.

“It could possibly be that councillors have rate capping in the back of their minds and have kept expenditure down to a minimum because I know that I don’t want to see services taken away.”

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Cr Moore took out the title as Cardinia shire’s most expensive councillor, claiming $49,556 across the council term.

He claimed $19,419 – amounting to 21,329 kilometres – for travel expenses in 2015. During his year as mayor in 2014 he opted to use the mayoral car.

“If a resident contacts me, I like to go and see them to inspect the issue – usually on my way to a community event,” Cr Moore said.

“I see that as my job as a councillor. But some of the other councillors might do things differently. I go to events across all the wards, not just Port Ward, because I believe I represent the council of Cardinia.”

Cr Moore admitted to having driven 150 kilometres on Remembrance Day alone.

“I’m out at night-time events three nights a week,” he said.

“I think I’m transparent and my expenditure can be justified.

“I enjoy the contact with the community. It gives the community value for their money.”

Cr Moore and ratepayer advocate Collin Ross together spent about 35 per cent of the overall $250,632 across the full term.

Cr Ross claimed $2354 worth of course fees in 2013 to fund his post graduate diploma in local government at Swinburne.

Cardinia Shire Council Governance Manager Doug Evans told the Gazette that the claim had been approved for professional development reasons.

“It offers industry-focused, skill-based modules and units, covering topics such as councillor foundations, leadership and a governance skill base,” Mr Evans said.

“The diploma is highly recommended by the Municipal Association of Victoria to allow elected members a recognised professional development opportunity.”

In February this year councillors voted to have their own expenses claims recorded in more detail which came into effect in March.

Mayor Brett Owen said he was proud of the council’s commitment to being open and transparent, regularly publishing information about councillor expenses to its website.

“Councillors regularly meet with residents and community groups at different locations across the municipality, often travelling many hundreds of kilometres each week to attend meetings and events,” Cr Owen said.

“Cardinia shire is a geographically large and diverse shire and councillors spend a lot of time and travel significant distances in performing their duties.

“Councillors’ ongoing professional development is a very important element in ensuring we are equipped with the skills and knowledge to guide the extremely diverse range of functions performed by local government and make informed decisions on behalf of our community.”

The Gazette contacted the council for comment on the significant reduction in council spending but council officers did not wish to provide a statement.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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