In July 2019, council governance staff at all 79 councils were sent a survey requesting information on the level of support provided to councillors for items such as information technology, travel costs, training and childcare (Appendix 1).
This included providing expenses data for the 2017/18 financial year, confirming the types of resources provided to councillors such as vehicles and office space, and providing data on technology including mobile phone plans. The Inspectorate received responses from governance staff at 76 councils.
The following month, all mayors and councillors were sent a survey seeking their opinions on matters of councillor allowances, resources and facilities, and expense reimbursement (Appendix 2). Responses were received from 187 councillors and 39 mayors, representing nearly 40% of those contacted.
Questions from Local Government Inspectorate’s governance staff survey, July 2019
Q1 Which council are you responding for?
Q2 Including the Mayor, how many Councillors do you have?
Q3 The Victorian Government sets upper and lower levels for allowances paid to Councillors as well as the Mayor. After a General Election, Councils determine the allowance level within the applicable range. After the 2016 elections, at what level was your councillor allowance set?
Q4 After the 2016 elections, at what level was the Mayoral allowance set?
Q5 Please provide the current annual allowances in place at your council. Do not include the amount that is the equivalent of the superannuation guarantee.
Q6 How many Councillors have elected not to receive an allowance? *If all Councillors receive an allowance, you may skip this question.
Q7 The Local Government Planning and Reporting Regulations require councils to detail councillor expenses in annual reports in 5 distinct categories. The following questions will require you to input your councils spend in each category (as per the annual report) in relation to the 2017/2018 financial year. Your answers will need to be whole numbers, so please round any figures to the closest dollar and do not include a dollar sign. We recognise that some councils may report under additional categories such as “Miscellaneous” or “Other”. If this applies to your council, please include the aggregate spend of any additional categories under “Other”. Note: The total spend for all 6 categories should equal the total spend reported in the annual report.
Q8 We would like to understand how much was spent in previous years, but at this stage we don’t need you to categorise the expenses. What was your council’s total reported spend on Councillor expenses (including reimbursement of expenses) for the financial years listed below?
Q9 Section 75C of the Local Government Act (1989) requires councils to make available minimum resources and facilities to Councillors. Which items does your council provide?
Q10 We understand that some Councillors receive a separate mobile handset and telephone number for use in their role as a Councillor, whereas some prefer to use their existing personal device, choosing to seek reimbursement from council instead. At your council, how many fall into each category?
Q11 For Councillors who receive a mobile phone, what type of plan are they provided with?
Q12 In the 2017/2018 financial year, what was the cost to Council of the Mayoral vehicle?* If you did not provide the Mayor with a vehicle, enter 0.
Q13 Does your council offer a remote travel allowance? Q14 If your council offers a remote travel allowance, in the 2017/2018 financial year how much was disbursed under the allowance? *If no allowance is offered, please leave blank.
Questions from Local Government Inspectorate’s councillor/mayor survey, August 2019
Q1 How is your council classified?
Q2 Which region is your council in?
Q3 How long have you been a Councillor?
Q4 On average, how many hours per week (not including travel time) would you say you dedicate to your role as a Councillor/Mayor?
Q5 On average, how many hours per week do you spend commuting as a part of your role as a Councillor/Mayor?
Q6 What are the most time-consuming parts of being a Councillor/Mayor?
Q7 What do you find most challenging or difficult about being a Councillor/Mayor?
Q8 What do you see as your most important tasks? (In no particular order).
Q9 How would you describe your current employment status?
Q10 How do you feel about your current allowance level?
Q11 What do you think is the purpose of your allowance?
Q12 All Councillors are provided with a toolkit of resources to assist them in performing their roles. This toolkit includes things like mobile phones, IT equipment and administrative support. What best describes the toolkit provided to you?
Q13 What kind of resources do you think every Councillor should be provided with?
Q14 Is there something that you don’t have access to now that you think should be provided?
Q15 Are there any resources or reimbursements provided to Councillors that you think are unnecessary? If so, please list below.
Q16 Does your council have a policy relating to Councillor support and reimbursements?
Q17 Are the controls in place relating to Councillor support (including expense claims) sufficient?
Q18 When it comes to seeking reimbursement for expenses, where do you go for guidance about what should be claimed?
Q19 What kinds of things do you think you should be reimbursed for?
Q20 Is there anything else you would like to add?
Reviewed 11 November 2020