Tallying up council’s dialling out

HUME councillors have defended disparity in their expenses after new figures showed nearly $90,000 was spent on official mobile phone use and mileage travel since they were elected in 2008.
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Hume Council figures, released last week, show councillors spent $46,990 on mobile phone use alone.

Of this, councillors paid back $10,261 because of personal use.

Cr Jack Ogilvie’s mobile phone bill was the highest at $10,281, with $9480 spent on council matters. He paid back $800 to the council.

Cr Adem Atmaca’s mobile phone bill was $10,059, with $7881 spent on council matters and the rest reimbursed. Cr Burhan Yigit paid back $2632 from his original $3635 bill, while Cr Vic Dougall’s bill was $1687 after he reimbursed $1015 for personal use.

Five councillors claimed $42,048 for mileage travelled in their private cars. Cr Ann Potter had the highest travel expenses – $12,206 – while councillors Ogilvie, Atmaca and Drew Jessop each claimed more than $8000.

Councillors Potter and Ogilvie, of Jacksons Creek ward, said their huge travel expenses were due to travelling from Sunbury to other parts of Hume.

Cr Potter said the figures didn’t take into account the fact that Cr Ogilvie had a mayoral car for 12 months when he was mayor in 2008-09.

Both said their expenses would be about the same if Cr Ogilvie hadn’t had use of the mayoral car.

Cr Ogilvie added: “Ann [Potter] and I do 10 times the travel of everyone else. It’s 54 kilometres to Broadmeadows and 65 kilometres to Craigieburn. As for my phone, I’m never off it. In general, I receive 12 calls a day about issues that I have to follow up and get back to residents.”

Cr Atmaca said: “Take out the monthly access fee and my bill is about $70 [each month], which I don’t think is a large amount. I always use the phone as a way to communicate with residents. With the travel, the more meetings and functions you go to, the harder you work and the higher the expenses.”

Cr Jessop said the costs of regularly travelling for 30 kilometres from Craigieburn to Broadmeadows for council meetings added up.

“I also attend a number of other meetings outside Hume, for example Merri Creek management committee meetings in Coburg and Whittlesea.”

Cr Dougall said he claimed no travel expenses. “I use my council mobile almost exclusively for keeping in touch with residents and have repaid all calls as a way of keeping down the cost of local government to ratepayers.”

Cr Helen Patsikatheodorou said: “I don’t claim travel expenses for going to meetings or visiting residents. That’s the way I do my business.”

Councillors Ros Spence, Geoff Porter and Yigit didn’t respond before deadline.