Course divides councillors

Goulburn Mulwaree Council general manager Warwick Bennett.

Some Goulburn Mulwaree councillors will take advantage of a company directors’ training course costing almost $7000 each.

But Cr Andrew Banfield does not support the move, saying the amount is well above the budget allocation.

Council general manager Warwick Bennett reported on details of the Australian Institute of Directors five-day training course to the most recent meeting. The course, at Orange from April 3 to 7, 2017, costs $6,699 per head, not including travel, accommodation and meals, estimated to be an extra $1000.

Current council policy restricts training expenditure for individualcouncillors to $3500 each. But Mr Bennett said they could change this by resolution if they wished.

He did not specifically recommend that councillors take it up but urged consideration.

“It’s invaluable to your role. Councillors have responsibility for leading a growing community and the expenditure of many millions of dollars,” Mr Bennett wrote.“Coupled with that (is) the responsibility of setting well defined policy and strategic directions and getting the governance process right is critical.”

He argued councillors’ roles were similar to that of a board director, possibly greater, given the public forum and community expectations. The course is not specifically aimed at councillors and contains modules on decision making, directors’ duties and responsibilities and the board’s legal environment.

But Cr Andrew Banfield said he wouldn’t support the allocation.

“We should discuss it in a workshop first … to talk about the benefits to councillors and the community.It’s a big expense and well above the allocated budget,” he said.

Mayor Bob Kirk pointed out it was previously discussed in a workshop.

In response to a question from Cr Peter Walker about future requirements of councillors, Mr Bennett said it was very much part of the state government’s thrust.

“If it makes us more qualified, why not?” Cr Carol James said.

But rather than making it mandatory, councillors decided that if individuals wanted to do the company directors course, the council would meet direct and associated costs.

Mayor Bob Kirk said he was considering taking up the opportunity but felt not many other councillors would due to the five-day time commitment.

“I potentially see it as helpful…I will consider it but only on the basis that the community would expect me to be suitably informed and educated as chairman of that body (council),” he said.

Cr Kirk said it was a “little surprising” that the State Government and NSW Local Government Department had signaled that councillors in the future would need to have qualifications to serve.

He, former Mayor Geoff Kettle and Cr Andrew Banfield undertook an intensive Local Government course in Sydney before the last election.

The Australian Institute of Directors had regularly attended the annual NSW Local Government conference as exhibitors. Cr Kirk suggested to Mr Bennett that their course be offered to Goulburn Mulwaree councillors. He believed the council would draw maximum benefit from the investment this early in the term.

Cr Kirk said while $6699 seemed like a large amount in the context of the maximum $3500 annual allocation for individual councillor training, very few would have reached this each year.

“And if I were to do the course, I’d be very surprised if I exceeded the budget total, so I don’t see it as an expense. It’s no more than the community expects,” he said.

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