Five no-shows to council’s budget briefing

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Missing in action: Five Frankston councillors were absent at a budget meeting on Saturday, causing it to be abandoned. Pictures: Supplied

A FRANKSTON Council meeting to run through the upcoming budget has fizzled out, with only four out of nine councillors showing up to the briefing.

Crs Colin Hampton, Steve Toms, Brian Cunial, Sandra Mayer, and Glenn Aitken were no-shows to the meeting at the Frankston Arts Centre on Saturday 9 February. 

Ratepayer money was used to hire the venue, bring in the monitor, and cater morning tea for the event. 

The briefing ended in quick time, with present councillors and dozens of council officers sent home after only a couple of hours. Frankston councillor Kris Bolam told The Times the number of absences was “perplexing”.

“What I will say is that councillors are expected to manage a $160 million dollar budget and approximately $1.7 billion dollars in community assets. The budget affects over 150,000 residents and the council’s 700 employees. It is a very important process that is essentially at the heart of being an elected councillor.”

“I will leave it to others to justify why they weren’t there but to say attendance was lackluster is a severe understatement.”

The Times understands the meeting was scheduled to go all day.

The mayor Michael O’Reilly said that a new “streamlined” process was the reason for the short meeting.

“Council hosted its annual budget meeting on Saturday 9 February, this year at the Frankston Arts Centre,” he said.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our processes, so councillors were asked to review the budget papers and submit their questions prior to the meeting, which gave officers time to prepare detailed responses. Because some Councillors were unable to attend the meeting due to work and family commitments, this new process worked really well.  

“Another bonus of this new streamlined approach was that the meeting finished earlier than expected so lunch catering was not required. The total cost for the meeting is yet to be received, but we have a standard room hire fee which is done via internal transfer, and the cost per person for morning tea catering.

“Council is continuing to work together on a budget that will meet the needs of our entire community, and hopes to release a draft for community feedback in April.”

Cr Mayer told The Times she had a “doctors note” and could not attend due to illness. Cr Hampton said “my life is not just being a councillor, I had a family commitment later in afternoon, I’ll catch up. We are part time.” Cr Steve Toms posted on social media that he is on leave until 18 February. Cr Cunial said he had a “personal engagement”, while Cr Aitken also told The Times he had a personal commitment.

Cr Aitken said “it needs to be remembered that the budget is a very prolonged series of meetings and briefing, not just one. We generally have deliberations lasting over two months.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 18 February 2019

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