Rogue MP sheds new light on 'disgraceful' councillor conduct
ROGUE LABOR MP Jo-Ann Miller is calling for an investigation into negotiations between Ipswich City Council and Ipswich Rugby League over tenure rights for the North Ipswich Reserve.
The Member for Bundamba also shed new light on the "absolutely absurd, ridiculous and unlawful" behaviour of sacked councillors and expressed her disgust at the amount of money spent by them on their individual divisions, rather than on much-needed city-wide projects.
She was speaking in parliament before the second stage of reforms to Queensland councils were passed.
"I am advised that, effectively, council has been financially underwriting any operating losses of the Ipswich Rugby League for many years," she said.
"Apparently, this was negotiated some years ago by councillors to acquire the tenure rights to the North Ipswich Reserve.
"When this was negotiated, there was no apparent time limit to this deal.
"The people of Ipswich need to know when this was negotiated, by whom and at what cost?
"Also, there was a heads of agreement with the Brisbane Lions AFL Club. Councillors had committed to various base works for the Springfield stadium without any clear understanding of the actual costs nor the liabilities attached to this commitment.
"The budget allocated in 2018 for this was manifestly inadequate for the scope of the work to which council had committed. This was mismanagement and misconduct, but it was nice photo opportunities."
Mrs Miller said former councillors had discretionary community grants they could hand out to organisations without any process for assessing the merit of the grants, and "no consideration" was given as to how the money could be spent on city-wide projects.
She said $1.4million was available to hand out in this way by the councillors in the 2018 budget.
"In 2018, each councillor controlled about $680,000 per annum in divisional infrastructure funds," she said.
"This was used by them to fund popular small infrastructure or capital works projects in each division without any process, again, for the overall prioritisation of capital spending across the city.
"In the 2018 budget, some $7million was made available to councillors to allocate in this way. I am advised that the divisional allocation could also be carried forward to future years if it were underspent.
"I am also advised that one councillor had a war chest of almost $2 million to spend on projects in that person's division in the lead-up to the March 2020 local government elections. By anyone's view, that is simply disgraceful."
Mrs Miller said each councillor had their own office staffed by between one and three council employees with an annual operating cost of more than $2million.
"Allocating this amount of ratepayers' money towards unnecessary administration also reinforced the 'my patch' approach of many councillors," she said.
"When added all up, it came to something like $10.5million in administration costs for councillors, money that could have gone to other projects city-wide.
"That $10.5 million consists of the total household rate base of these suburbs - all of Redbank Plains plus Blackstone, or all the houses of Goodna, Bellbird Park, Ripley and Blackstone - paying rates of roughly $1400 a year just to pay for city councillors to have some money to give out to community groups."
Mrs Miller said one councillor had a regular monthly tour across his division with operational staff, directing where specific works were to be undertaken.
"In anyone's language, this is misconduct and it should have been heard by the councillor conduct tribunal," she said.
"In relation to councillors putting in place policies and procedures, they used to have mandatory notification of and consultation on any operational work to be done in their division.
"This included not just roads, rates and rates types of things but also a right for them to veto this work.
"In other words, issues such as food permits, licensing applications, compliance issues, legal matters and facilities maintenance could be overridden or vetoed by the councillor.
"This is against the Local Government Act.
"Delegations were even amended to note that officers had to seek the local councillor's endorsement before the work could begin. This was absolutely absurd, ridiculous and unlawful."
Mrs Miller said the council also had a formal and legally binding obligation to deliver certain roads around the Springfield urban growth area when traffic volume reached defined levels but this "was just ignored" under the direction of former councillors.