The City of Ballarat will fork out up to $56,000 to send two councillors and a senior officer on a business class trip to the World League of Historical Cities conference in Austria this year.
Information obtained by The Courier revealed the council may pay a figure equating about $20,000 per person. Mayor Des Hudson, councillor Samantha McIntosh and general manager of people and communities Neville Ivey are set to make the journey to Bad Ischl in Austria in time for councillors to present at the WLHC board of directors meeting on June 7 and 9.
The council estimated the cost for the trip would be between $45,000 and $56,000, with staff flying business class.
In the weeks following the controversial decision, the council have come under intense scrutiny for voting to send two councillors, instead of one. It comes after the council applied for an exemption from the new Victorian rate-cap which is expected to slash more than $2.5 million from the council’s annual budget.
However, Cr Hudson denied the council was being irresponsible with its spending.
He said it was council practice to send the mayor to all delegations. He argued Cr McIntosh was a valuable addition to the trip due to her knowledge and role as a long-time heritage advocate for the city.
“I totally understand the questions from a residents point of view,” Cr Hudson said. “There is often a perception that council just deal with roads, rates and rubbish but there is so much more to Ballarat than that. One of the key things we pride ourselves in is our built heritage. We need to make sure we are positioning Ballarat on the world stage to attract business and people to our city who come here and boost the economy.”
Cr Hudson and Mr Ivey will also travel to Finland after being invited by the Deputy Prime Minister of Finland.
The purpose of the leg of the trip was to progress the development of a Waste to Energy Facility, the Ballarat West Employment Zone Innovation Centre and other investment opportunities for Ballarat and Western Victoria, Cr Hudson said.
He said it was practice to fly staff on business class for long-haul travel.
“It’s to ensure the health and well-being of the delegation is maintained as it’s a fairly hectic schedule and staff have to be ready to present to conference shortly after they get off the flight.”
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