Aussies all over the country love spending their hard-earned cash on booze. As it turns out, so do our local councils.
An investigation by the Statewatch team discovered one council spent $1,703 on a 15-person dinner including $505 on alcohol for 30 beers and 7 bottles of wine.
The investigative team sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to numerous councils throughout NSW requesting a complete breakdown of all spending on travel and entertainment by the councillors.
Temora Shire Council, in south-western New South Wales, was one of only a few councils to actually supply the information requested.
The council’s general manager, Gary Charles Levelle, earned $182,217 last financial year and has a company credit card.
He spent one third of his $14,000 limit on food and alcohol.
The bill: $1,330.64 on alcohol, $2,713.72 on dinners, $227.10 on breakfasts and $646.45 on lunches and cafes.
Others credit card charges included $121.90 from catchoftheday.com.au, an online shopping website where customers try to out bid their opponents for products. There was also a bill for $44.90 from a similar website called oo.com.au.
The director of administration and finance at Temora Council, Stephen Firth, explained, “I don’t know offhand what these purchases are for but they’re applicable to the council.”
Although the FOI request sent to Temora council asked for a full breakdown of each councillor’s spending last financial year, it gave a total only – $70,380 for all councillors.
Dungog Shire Council and Kiama Shire Council’s travel and entertainment expenses were very similar to Temora council.
The Dungog mayor’s company credit card bill totalled $12,692, while councillors spent $67,950. Expenditure included $6,556 on travel, $1,699 on meals and $4,492 on conferences.
Kiama Council spent $3,260 on its Christmas party, $8,874 on catering and $26,120 on conferences over the entire financial year.
Geoff Plews from the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association explained, he would love to see council spending more accessible to the public.
Mr Plews also said he doesn’t like how much time and money his council spends on “gabfests”; he would rather see money spent on roads.
“I just want the councillors to stop talking and start working,” Mr Plews said.
Our investigation is not suggesting any wrongdoing by councils and for the best part, this money was fairly spent on company expenses. But should councils and their staff be spending ratepayers’ money on dinners and alcohol?
Inquiries by the Statewatch team showed a radar speed display for a school zone, a very effective means of slowing motorists, can be bought for $2,700 from DCD safety systems, an Australian company.
Sydney asphalt company J & E Excavations charges $264 per square metre to repair potholes. At that price, that $1700 15-person dinner could have paid for the repair of six very substantial potholes. – Eddie Mills