Related: Chapman tops councillor expenses
The minister for local government says figures detailing the expenses claimed by Bendigo councillors were made public as part of the state’s push towards more transparent councils.
Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins: ‘We want to see communities have a greater say and ensure that councils are listening.’
Thursday marked the first time the City of Greater Bendigo publicly released each councillor’s expense claims as part of its annual report, a move made necessary byamendments to local government regulations.
The report showed CouncillorElise Chapmanclaimed more than double thatof all but one of her council colleagues. But the Marong-based councillor defended herexpensebill as necessary for a single-mother of two living on the outskirts of theshire.
“I have two children, and I’ve recently completed my training to be a foster parent,” the single mother and Lockwood Wardcouncillor said.“I claim for reimbursements that I’m entitled to …clearly I had a busy year [and] I don’t just vote on issues without driving out and having a look at the site in relation to the issue.
“I also visited many residents that need my help and attended meetings and events, as is my job.”
The city’s annual report revealed Cr Chapman claimed a total of $35,676 in the last financial year, with $21,191 of that claimed as car mileage, $4243 in childcare, $3368 information and communication expenses and $2037 in conferences and training.
The next highest claim was by Cr Mark Weragoda, who claimed$20,709, followed by Cr Rod Fyffe, who claimed $16,208. The lowestexpense bill was that of Cr Lisa Ruffell, who claimed $3,534.
A City of Greater Bendigo spokesperson said councillors could claim however much they saw fitfor items such astransport, childcare and out-of-pocket expenses necessary for carrying out their duties as civic leaders.
“While there is no upper limit, there is regular reporting and accountability through quarterly reports to council and now through the annual report,” thespokespersonsaid.
Local GovernmentMinister Natalie Hutchins said the reform which made the public release of expense claims necessary got to the heart ofthe state’sagenda for local government:“accountability and transparency.”
“We want to see communities have a greater say and ensure that councils are listening,” the minister said.
“That workbegins with greater spending transparency, and builds on our commitment for a Fair Go Rates cap and a review of the Local Government Act.”
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