Change to travel rules

Robert DoughertyNorth West Telegraph
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A Pilbara council has dumped its policy on paying spouses or partners travel costs associated with joining elected members on official civic duties.

It comes as the Town of Port Hedland reveals the budget for travel and accommodation in 2017/18 has blown out from $37,000 to more than $50,000 because of “numerous opportunities” for mainly new councillors to “develop their skills and network with key stakeholders”.

The council paid $3009 in total to the spouses of elected members attending official business in the same financial year.

Under the new amendment, passed unanimously at July 25’s ordinary council meeting, claims for travel and accommodation will no longer be paid to spouses or partners of councillors accompanying elected members while they are on official Town business.

Mayor Camilo Blanco said there was a large number of occasions where the ToPH was expected to be presenting this year but costs were below previous years. “I know that the travel and accommodation allowance that’s budgeted for the Town is considerably less than has happened in previous years,” he said. “When I first got on council it was budgeted and the amount spent was nearly a quarter of a million dollars so we have reduced our spend significantly in travel and accommodation.

“I was actually unaware that it was the case (there was a partner’s allowance) — in all cases where my wife comes with me, I pay for her flights and (any) associated costs surrounding her.”

The notice of motion was put forward by Deputy Mayor Louise Newbery in December to align the ToPH policy with the City of Greater Geraldton — although no costs were incurred to the Town for elected members’ partners’ travel during the 2016/17 financial year.

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