A question mark is hanging over the final costs to ratepayers for a European trip currently being undertaken by City of Ballarat council officers and mayor Samantha McIntosh.
Council representatives left for a fact-finding journey on Sunday to Paris, various cities in England and Douai in northern France, to discuss waste to energy facilities and heritage attractions before attending the 16th World Conference of Historical Cities in Bursa, Turkey.
City of Ballarat chief executive officer Justine Linley told The Courier the city would cover all expenses for Cr McIntosh’s travel except for the conference and accommodation in Turkey.
The mayor’s bill is expected to total $6,000. But uncertainty hangs over exactly how much will be spent to send ‘senior council officers’ overseas.
It follows The Courier’s reporting on Monday that City of Ballarat councillors felt information of the trip had been withheld from them until 48 hours before Cr McIntosh was due to fly out.
The Courier supplied City of Ballarat with questions on Monday morning, asking how many council officers would be attending the trip, who the officers were, why they were chosen and what the total cost would be to send them to Europe.
A media officer for City of Ballarat told The Courier at 5pm their department had been “too busy" to respond.
While Ballarat councillors knew about the long-planned trip to the historical cities conference, they did not receive the itinerary for plans to visit England and France until Saturday morning.
It follows a council decision in May to allow all international travel to be signed off solely by the CEO, without having to go to a public council vote. It was approved 5-4, with Crs McIntosh, Ben Taylor, Mark Harris, Grant Tillett and Jim Rinaldi voting for the change.
Cr McIntosh said she was “surprised” there were questions around councillor’s knowledge of the trip’s “significant agenda”. She said a tour of Paris’ creative scene with the Australian ambassador to France would elevate conversation around Ballarat’s Creative City Strategy.
A planned visit to Slough in England to see a waste to energy facility was important, she said, as the city “must be informed when we are ready to make a decision” on the $300 million BWEZ energy plant proposal.
Cr Mcintosh also said scheduled visits to Bath and Cornwall would inform the bid to get world heritage listing for the Central Victorian Goldfields. She is due to return to Australia on September 12.
North ward’s Cr Des Hudson said while he was supportive of some elements of the travel – including time spent in Slough to visit a waste to energy plant with connections to a Mars factory – other parts seemed like a “bucket list of holiday destinations”.
City of Ballarat’s media department also refused to be drawn on how much had been budgeted in the 2018/2019 Council Budget for international travel.