Councillors defer conference attendances as cost-saving measure

Potential cost savings to ratepayers were front of mind for councillors at Wednesday’s meeting.

While matters such as deregulating the Merimbula to Sydney flight route and priorities for storm damage repairs were the big ticket items, there was also discussion over conference delegations in the year to come.

With the new council came appointments of each councillor to various committees and organisations as part of, but in addition to, their role around the meeting table every three weeks.

They were also asked to nominate representatives to attend a variety of conferences around the state for the rest of the financial year.

However, Cr Russell Fitzpatrick asked whether all the conferences were necessary and whether they represented value for money.

Ten separate conferences were listed in the meeting agenda, ranging from October’s Regional Arts Conference in Dubbo, to the Australian Local Government Association National General Assembly in Canberra next June.

General manager Leanne Barnes confirmed BVSC staff members would be attending several of the conferences listed, regardless of councillor commitments.

With that, councillors asked whether their presence was also necessary or if they could just get details and reports from the staff attending.

“We’re already told $110,000 is needed for council development programs,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

“I’m looking at the list of community assets before us today needing repairs and I’m thinking, personally, which of these conferences are essential?"

Of the 10 events, five councillors were already committed to the Local Government NSW conference being held in Wollongong from October 16-18. Cr Mitchell Nadin was keen to attend an International Cities Town Centres and Communities Society conference in Tasmania, and Mayor Kristy McBain was to attend November’s State Library conference in Ulladulla.

Two others scheduled for 2016 were to be attended by staff only.

Cr Fitzpatrick suggested a decision on councillor attendance at any conferences scheduled for 2017 be deferred until November when the budget quarterly review is discussed.

The motion passed unanimously.

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