Costs creep up for council on the wing

OVERSEAS and interstate travel expenses for Hume councillors and council staff increased by nearly $5000 during the past financial year with fewer claims made than in the previous 12 months.

Figures from July 2011 until June 2012 show that 45 council staff and officers submitted expense claims for interstate or overseas travel during the 12 months.

The total travel cost was $72,074 – up from $67,052 in the previous 12 months.

Five councillors, including mayor Ros Spence, made claims.

Cr Spence claimed $575.90 for a Melbourne ‘northern’ delegation to Canberra.

Other councillors who claimed were Adem Atmaca (for two trips totalling $4913), Jack Ogilvie ($3629), Burhan Yigit (3,167.20) and Helen Patsikatheodorou ($528.16).

The most expensive trip, costing $8374, was for three staff members of the city infrastructure department to attend a Parks and Leisure Australia national conference in Fremantle.

That was followed by councillors Ogilvie and Yigit’s trip to the Local Government Australia national congress in Perth, which cost $6796.

Three staff members made overseas trips that were totally or partly funded by other sources.

Council spokesman Michael Sinclair said that as the expenses register was produced quarterly, there could be discrepancies between each of the registers produced throughout the year.

Sunbury residents association president Bernie O’Farrell said he had mixed views on who should be taking these trips.

“As long as council staff members can demonstrate a definitive benefit from the trips, I don’t have a problem with them.

“But I have serious doubts over what benefit residents get from councillors going on trips.”