Cost of councils' travel revealed

IN A REVIEW of local councils’ travel expenses, Kyogle councillors clock up almost double that of any other council in the region.

According to figures supplied by Kyogle Council, councillors claimed a total of $1410.36 in travel expenses in March 2010. Lismore came in second, with councillors from that council claiming $816 for the same month.

Ballina Shire Council reimbursed $753 worth of councillor travel expenses for March 2010; Richmond Valley Council reimbursed $522.79; and Byron Shire Council reimbursed $376.73, both over the same period.

According to the NSW Local Government Industrial Award, councillors are entitled to 73 cents per kilometre travelled for council business, or 64 cents per kilometre travelled for small vehicles.

Kyogle Councillor Ernie Bennett, who lives at Mummulgum and travels up to 100km one way to reach a council event, believes his council’s area coverage is the reason behind the higher travel expenses.

“I live right on the southern edge of the shire, so for me to get to Woodenbong is close to 100km,” Cr Bennett said.

“I don’t think you could fit Byron, Ballina and Lismore councils within the Kyogle shire. And our councillors live at all different points in the shire.

“Sometimes you have to go to places that are not within your local government area.”

Unlike Queensland, most positions held by local government councillors are not regarded as full-time jobs.

These councillors allocate their spare time to attending council meetings, inspections and events as part of their role, and in turn are entitled to a mileage allowance.

However, Bonalbo resident and Kyogle councillor Tom Cooper says the mileage allowance doesn’t make up for the ‘wear and tear’ on councillors’ private vehicles.

The Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Richmond Valley councils provide their mayors with a vehicle for council business that is not included in the travel expenses.

Kyogle Council general manager Arthur Piggott said Kyogle Council’s large expenses were also ‘due to the council not providing the mayor with a vehicle’.

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