Expenses crackdown rebooted

A RECOMMENDATION to slash generous IT allowances for Vincent councillors will see the light of day, five months after staff recommended the measure.

Councillors are given $3500 to cover phone and computer expenses; the maximum allowed by the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal. They don’t have to produce receipts or pay back unspent money.

Vincent’s staff crunched the numbers and reckoned just $1500 was needed, and if any councillors went over they could put in a claim for reimbursement with receipts.

A report to council said the cut could save $18,000 a year.

The change was deferred when first floated in October, with Matt Buckels the only councillor to oppose the delay. Two weeks later, councillors were paid their six-monthly allowance at the full rate.

Former councillor Dudley Maier has been pushing for change: “I’ve been raising this for over a year and all I’ve seen is stonewalling and delays. The perception is that they have something to hide and they don’t know how to address it. This wouldn’t pass the pub test.

“It’s pretty disgraceful that only one councillor was prepared to speak in public about this, and then they discussed it a week later in one of their closed council workshops. That doesn’t seem very open and accountable.

“If council members are as open as they claim to be, they should have no problem telling us how much they’ve spent, and how much they’ve pocketed.”

Mayor John Carey agrees the allowance should be reformed, but says Mr Maier is “being a little unfair”.

Frugal

“We are a frugal council and no one can deny that. We put a ban on council travel, the only one in WA to, we have no clothing allowance, no laundry allowances, no allowances for hair or dry cleaning like the City of Perth and some other councils.”

Mr Carey says costs for IT and telecommunications can quickly add up. “My phone bill is quite large, plus I have internet bills, and it includes purchasing new hardware, and repairs, and computers.

He says the cut was deferred over concerns about the administrative burden if there was a tsunami of receipts compared to a lump-sum payment.

by DAVID BELL

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