The full cost of regional councillors to Waikato ratepayers has been revealed - with elected members' tab including a $190 a-head meal at the Claudelands Event Centre.
Councillors' expense report for the past financial year was served up to the council's finance and audit committee this week, prompting some councillors to argue the figures didn't reflect their value to the region.
Councillor Paula Southgate was first to flag her concerns, saying she was disappointed councillors' meeting attendance fees didn't differentiate payments made to councillors sitting on the regional policy statement hearings.
Ms Southgate and deputy chairman Simon Friar and councillor Phillip Legg sat on the 12-week long hearings.
Ms Southgate said the hearings generated considerable work and extra reading with councillors paid only a $120 meeting attendance fee.
But it was rates control councillor Jane Hennebry, the self-appointed voice of council thrift, who took greatest umbrage at the cost figures.
Taking aim at the Waikato Times, an animated Ms Hennebry said expense figures and "councillor report card ratings" didn't reflect her workload.
The Times has run a series of stories examining council spending on marketing, communications, severance payouts and elected members' use of cellphones.
"There's a lot more to our work, if you're trying to add up all the nuts and bolts, than just meeting attendance fees and cellphone bills," she said.
Ms Hennebry was among the council's top five mobile phone users during the past two financial years, and ran up a $1154 bill in the 12 months to June.
The meeting's main talking point, however, was over councillors' spending on training, courses and conference fees.
Councillors each get $2000 to spend on conferences and training.
Ms Southgate said conferences and training courses were becoming increasingly expensive and limited options for personal development.
The newly elected council would need to examine whether greater funds should be allocated for training.
Chairman Peter Buckley said conference fees appeared to have increased "100 per cent" in the past three years.
Ms Hennebry said she declined to attend the recent Local Government New Zealand conference at the Claudelands Events Centre because of cost.
Councillors were charged $190 a head to attend a conference meal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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