AFTER three meetings and sometimes bitter debate, Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors have finally adopted a new expenses policy.
Basically, the policy gives councillors the right to spend up to $30,000 each over four years on such things as conferences and seminars ($16,000), education and training ($10,000) and entertainment ($4000).
The aggregate is $14,000 a councillor more than the previously accepted, and disputed, amounts.
The policy also introduced a ban on alcohol being supplied “before, during or after council meetings or briefings on council premises”.
The shire’s communications and media manager Mark Kestigian said on Friday that about $27,000 had been spent on council’s liquor supplies in the past four years.
The expenditure policy foundered at a special meeting on 6 September, with Cr Andrew Dixon saying the claimable amount for use of a private car on council business was too low.
Last week the policy was amended to bring the car allowance into line with that of shire staff rather than the 67 cents a kilometre rate set by the Australian Tax Office.
The shire’s enterprise agreement allows staff to claim 88 cents a kilometre for a four-cylinder car and a $1.085 cents for larger vehicles.
Under the new policy councillors will be given monthly reports on their expenses along with “an opportunity” to repay money spent on non-council business.
Pressure for the expenditure policy follows a council resolution in April for Cr Antonella Celi to repay about $9000 of the $28,520 paid by the shire for her attendance on conferences and seminars. The decision was reversed in May.
Legal advice obtained by the shire cast doubts on the $16,000-a-term spending limit for each councillor and that repayment of any perceived overspending could be forced.
Councillors also receive a $29,000 a year stipend.
The mayor gets a $92,000 a year stipend and under the new package is also allowed to spend an extra $3500 on conferences and seminars and $2000 a year on entertainment.
Under the new expenditure policy councillors cannot claim for alcohol and are subject to more definite conditions for child care payments.
The new policy states that child care payments cannot be made to someone who “normally or regularly” lives with a councillor. Rates are $31 an hour for day/evening weekday care; $42 an hour on weekends; and $53 an hour on public holidays.
Councillors who voted to adopt the new expenses policy were Anne, Shaw, Andrew Dixon, Bev Colomb, David Garnock, David Gibb and Antonella Celi. Against: Tim, Wood, Tim Rodgers, Hugh Fraser and Graham Pittock.