by Luke Voogt
Geelong ratepayers have forked out $29,000 for seven councillors to complete a company directors’ course, according to council figures.
Five councillors completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) course at a discounted rate in September 2018, while another two completed it at full cost.
Councillors Anthony Aitken, Jim Mason, Ron Nelson, Trent Sullivan and Peter Murrihy completed the course for $2,346 each, through a partnership with Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).
The partnership saw Geelong’s council host the course for a range of local participants last September.
New Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher completed the course in Melbourne last November at a cost of $8,671.
“The timing of the Geelong-based councillor group training clashed with my work commitments,” she told the Indy.
Councillor Sarah Mansfield also completed the course for $8,671 in June, as she was caring for her then six-month-old baby last September.
“For me this was in part due to being unable to get adequate childcare for five consecutive full days in addition to other usual council responsibilities,” she said.
“It was not practical or fair on other participants to bring him to the training given the nature of the course.”
The course cost council $29,071 during 2018/2019 and was a recommendation of the 2016 commission of inquiry report into City of Greater Geelong.
City Hall’s governance director Rebecca Leonard said she was “pleased” councillors had taken time to complete the course.
Many councillors across the state had completed the MAV-endorsed course, which featured content designed for a local government audience, she said.
“It helps councillors develop their knowledge about their governance role and builds their decision-making.”
Ratepayers Geelong president Peter Mitchell said councillors’ had “conceptually the same” the job as being on a board of directors.
But was surprised at the cost of the course and suggested State Government should fund a council-specific version.
“There would be a lot of it that would not be relevant to council,” he said.
The course was the second-largest collective councillor expense for 2018/2019 behind car mileage.
Councillors Asher and Mason, who both live on the Bellarine Peninsula, racked up about $5,800 each in 2018/2019 and claimed another $1,717 and $1,354 respectively for this June, July and August.
Previous mayor Bruce Harwood claimed $18,517 in milage during 2018/2019. Cr Harwood attended more than 300 meetings away from City Hall, he said.
These included a G21 municipal alliance meeting in Colac and a waste management meeting in Camperdown, Cr Harwood said.
“I did walk to events and meetings in central Geelong and travelled by train to Melbourne-based meetings wherever possible.”