The Inspectorate sought to ascertain whether councillors are being adequately supported by way of the “toolkit” of resources and facilities made available to them. A minimum toolkit of resources was set out in a 2008 Victorian government guidance document.
Our survey revealed the resources and facilities most commonly made available to councillors and mayors are a mobile phone, access to a printer at council, an iPad or tablet and office space at council.
Councils used the minimum toolkit as a starting point but adapted it to meet the needs of their councillors.
Most councillors and mayors were satisfied with the resources and facilities provided to them, at 71 per cent and 84 per cent respectively. However, some councillors and mayors thought they needed extra resources or facilities, such as administrative support.
|The toolkit available to me is more than enough - there are some things that I think aren't necessary||3%||4%|
|The toolkit I have been provided with is inadequate - there are additional things I need to perform my role||-||5%|
|The toolkit I have been provided is adequate, but it could be better||13%||0%|
|I am satisfied with the resources I have been provided with||84%||71%|
Governance staff said meeting the different needs and preferences of their councillors was often difficult. Councils also preferred providing standard equipment.
|Fax machine at home||-||3%|
|Landline at home||4%||7%|
|Additional allowance to cover printing costs||5%||15%|
|Access to council pool vehicle||42%||33%|
|Broadband/NBN connection at home||38%||48%|
|Office space at councils (For all councillors - not just the Mayor||48%||52%|
|Printer at home||40%||52%|
|Access to printer at council||75%||54%|
|Laptop to take home||56%||55%|
Childcare and dependent care claims
The Inspectorate investigated allegations that, over seven years, a metropolitan councillor filled out invoices on behalf of their babysitter to support their childcare expense claims.
We concluded the councillor was not familiar with and did not adhere to council’s expenses reimbursement policy and did not understand what constituted appropriate documentation to support expense claims.
The councillor was given a warning and advised to submit only appropriate documentation in all future claims for reimbursement.
Non-legitimate travel reimbursements
An allegation was received in early 2019 that a councillor from a large shire council was regularly attending functions and training opportunities in order to claim travel reimbursement while shopping instead of attending the events.
To counter the possibility of such wasteful actions, we recommended that council expenses policies include a requirement for councillors to report back to council on conferences and training they have attended.
Mayors and councillors receive a fixed allowance for conducting their duties. At the time of our review, the allowance was set by the Minister for Local Government. The amount of the allowance was dependent on their role, the council classification under Local Government Victoria guidelines and the decisions made by council on the specific allowance amount for each councillor.
Most councillors and mayors received an allowance at or near the top of the relevant range. However, our survey revealed a high proportion of discontentment with the amount of the allowance.
|I don't get paid enough||43%||59%|
|I am paid the appropriate amount||50%||26%|
|I don't really have an opinion on the matter||3%||12%|
|Councillor allowances are too high||4%||3%|
In the survey, mayors said their allowance was a form of salary or wages while councillors said the allowance covered the costs relating to their role, including the loss of employment.
“Councillors don’t get paid enough. I can’t afford not to work full time and do council, if I did reduce my hours to have a better work/life balance I would be sacrificing a career outside council.”
A third of mayors said they dedicated more than 40 hours per week to their role. About 70 per cent of councillors said they dedicated more than 16 hours per week to their role and 20 per cent said they spent more than 32 hours per week on their role.
Some councillors and mayors also reduced their hours at their paid employment. Balancing work, family and their role as councillor or mayor was one of the most challenging or difficult aspects.
Under the Act, allowances are now determined by the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal. On 7 March 2022, the tribunal made a determination stipulating the new councillor, mayor and deputy mayor allowances. In making the determination, the tribunal conducted a comprehensive review of the existing allowances under the Local Government Act 1989. The tribunal noted the scope and complexity of a councillor’s role has increased significantly in recent years. As a result, the tribunal decided to increase the allowances available to councillors, mayors and deputy mayors, with scope to adjust the values of allowances annually.
Benefit of flat rate for kilometre claims
A large shire council uses the RACV car classification system to calculate vehicle reimbursement for councillor travel. In 2011, a councillor deliberately changed the information provided in an email from a RACV engineer regarding the car’s classification intending to claim a higher reimbursement rate. The councillor was subsequently charged and found guilty of attempting to obtain property by deception.
Many councils now award a flat rate for kilometre reimbursement, instead of by reference to engine size.
Reviewed 22 February 2023