Division 4 councillor Kate Kunzelmann voiced her concern about the discretionary funds but said the new policy adopted by council today was a positive step forward. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Division 4 councillor Kate Kunzelmann voiced her concern about the discretionary funds but said the new policy adopted by council today was a positive step forward. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Councillors receive $162,000 to spend at own discretion

IPSWICH councillors will each be given $18,000 to spend a year at their own discretion.

At the Ipswich City Council budget meeting this morning, councillors unanimously voted to adopt a new councillor discretionary funds policy.

These funds can be spent for a community purpose or to a community group.

Mayor Teresa Harding said councillors had debated whether these funds should be exist.

The council's general manager of community, cultural and economic development Ben Pole said the new policy was "substantially different" to the previous rules by the last council.

The funds are limited to $18,000 per councillor a year.

That adds up to a total of $162,000 a year, with Cr Harding saying under the previous council that figure stood at a staggering $1.4 million.

"Applications will first be assessed by officers in accordance with the eligibility criteria," Mr Pole said.

"Eligible applications will be considered and approved at the discretion of the mayor and councillors.

"All information related to funding will be recorded."

The name of organisation receiving funds will be posted online, as will the amount and purpose of the funding.

Division 1 councillor Sheila Ireland did not believe the new policy changed much.
Division 1 councillor Sheila Ireland did not believe the new policy changed much.

The turnaround for these grants is a week.

Councillors Kate Kunzelmann, Russell Milligan and Jacob Madsen voiced concerns about such funds existing but said the new policy was a positive step forward for transparency.

"I'm satisfied we have appropriate measures and governance in place to monitor these contributions to ensure absolutely everyone is doing the right thing and it ends up with those that truly should benefit," deputy mayor Marnie Doyle said.

Cr Madsen agreed.

"This is something I'll lose sleep over in ensuring these funds are used to maximum benefit of the community," he said.

Cr Harding said the grants are for urgent fixes for community groups.

"The local government regulations actually changed, I think in a big part of what happened here in Ipswich and in Logan and set to cap that," she said.

"The regulations have capped that at 0.1 per cent of rate revenue, so that's why its $162,000 for all of Ipswich, which ends up being $18,000 per councillor.

"The main thing is there, it's got to be transparent, it's got to be disclosed and also reviewed by council officers as well."

Division 1 councillor Sheila Ireland, who was dismissed with her colleagues in 2018, did not believe the new policy changed much from the previous administration.

"Nothing has changed, the rules are still the same as it's up to the officers," she said.

"We never wrote a cheque or got cash.

"There were plenty of opportunities for the officers to have refused to pay on anything that didn't meet criteria.

"Nothing has changed with the new rules. It's the same rules.

"There's more responsibilities on the councillors now."