MEDIA RELEASE – COUNCILLORS DEFEND CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE

Council has issued a Media Release in response to the concerns that I posted on this site yesterday in relation to the costs associated with sending 8 Council representatives to a recent conference. The release is posted below to provide a balanced opinion on the issue.

Bundaberg Regional Councillors have defended a decision that saw seven of their number and the Chief Executive Officer attend the recent Local Government Association of Queensland conference in Brisbane.

Cr. Greg Barnes, who did not attend the three day conference, posted details on his personal web page of the expenditure incurred by Councillors attending the conference. In his website comments, Cr. Barnes said he wished to distance himself from the expenditure of more than $17,500 generated at the conference.

“Apart from my concerns over this level of expenditure on a single conference, I’m also concerned that the adopted budget for Councillors conferences and seminars has been blown to pieces after just four and a half months of the financial year.”

He said the total 2012/13 budget had been set at $15,405. “I’m advised that prior to this conference, Councillors had already spent $18,967 which is $3562 over budget.”

Cr. Barnes said the budget was now exceeded by more than $21,000.

“At a time of financial constraints when ratepayer concerns and requests are rigorously tested against adopted budgets and dealt with or rejected on a priority basis, I’m unable to understand how this degree of expenditure can be justified.”

Cr. Barnes said he had posted the comments to his website because he didn’t want to be seen as providing tacit support for this type of expenditure.

Mayor, Cr. Mal Forman said while he appreciated Cr. Barnes concerns he also appreciated a desire by fellow Councillors to ensure they were fully informed and able to deliver the best representation possible to the community.

“The LGAQ conference is the premier conference of its type and canvasses such a broad range of topics. Councillors heard from keynote speakers, industry leaders, attended professional development course and, most importantly, engaged with fellow Councillors from across the State.”

“We had deputations to meet with State Government Ministers. Cr. Bush and myself held discussions with Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli and Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg regarding the fluoride situation here in Bundaberg.”

Cr. Forman said that while the CEO and Councillors could contact various government departments by phone, to have the opportunity for one on one discussion was obviously a far better arrangement.

“Quite honestly, Council may well have erred in its budget decision regarding an allocation for Councillor conferences. In essence, an amount of $15,405 across eleven Councillors is not a lot of money when it comes to attending important conferences,” he said.

“Obviously Councillors need to be prudent regarding what conferences they wish to attend.”

Cr. Forman said a budget amendment would need to be made to represent a more realistic figure.

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