A Ballarat councillor has vowed to have travel policy reviewed, after questions of transparency were raised over a European trip.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh left for an international journey which visits Paris, Cornwall, Bath, Douai, Slough, and Bursa in Turkey on Sunday. But councillors claim the full itinerary was kept from them until less than 48 hours before the mayor flew out.
The Councillor Expenses Entitlement Policy was amended by vote at a council meeting on May 2, allowing overseas travel be signed off solely by the CEO, without having to be discussed and voted on at a public meeting.
Cr Des Hudson said at the next meeting he would request officers to rethink the policy and return it to chambers for another vote.
“We need to be open and upfront, talk about and not hide from it, and have a rational conversation with the community,” he said.
“It needs to be a decision of council, so that everyone has had some by-in. To have a view different in 2018 where everything is about transparency across all tiers of government is ridiculous.”
Councillor Mark Harris, who voted for the change to international travel, said that it was clear the policy “hasn’t fulfilled expectations”, and he did hold himself “somewhat responsible” for the fallout.
“I reckon we could do it better, because it has not performed as well as it should have,” he said. “I would still like to see best possible governance; through the rigour of committees and approval by the CEO if we send anyone overseas … If we need to go back to parts of the previous policy, I wouldn’t personally contest that.”
On Tuesday, The Courier again submitted questions to council’s media team about the cost of the trip for council officers also attending, but received no response.
City of Ballarat chief executive officer Justine Linley said on Wednesday morning that councillors were welcome to request a review of different policies.
"Councillors are, as always, free to call for a review of policy and to make changes to any policy as they wish, it is a Council policy afterall. Any policy change can result in unintended consequences and a proper evaluation and review is good practice," she said.