Spouses hampered

HAMPERS costing Bayswater ratepayers $200 a pop will no longer bring Christmas morning joy to the partners and spouses of council leaders.

The city’s councillors this week voted to stop $3200 being spent each year on festive gifts for their partners, and the partners of the city’s five most senior staff. It ends a tradition of more than 17 years to show “appreciation of those spouses and partners during the year”.

WA local government minister Tony Simpson didn’t mince words in demanding that the practice end.

His letter to the council advising the largesse must stop arrived just hours before the council was due to debate the issue.

“We’ve been told that the practice does not comply and we shouldn’t continue with the Christmas hampers,” Mayor Barry McKenna told his council. “That’s the minister’s recommendation.”

He noted the council had sought advice from the WA local government department in 2011 and was told “Christmas hampers were allowed to be given”.

“But the department has now, today (Tuesday, December 15), changed its mind,” he says. “A lot has happened in the last 24 hours.”

The minister stepped in after news of the hampers made headlines on the day of the meeting. Because of the conflict of interest, councillors had to write to the minister for permission to vote on the motion to dump the allowance, moved by Cr Catherine Ehrhardt.

Buried in the council’s budget papers under “functions and events”, the hamper allowance was dumped unanimously.

Among the spouses now missing out on ratepayer-funded wine and chocolate is Mt Lawley Liberal MP and WA speaker Michael Sutherland, who is married to Cr Michelle Sutherland.

by EMMIE DOWLING

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