City council committee to consider policy on allowances and expenses

After some questions and controversy over the mayoral car, the Invercargill City Council is set to adopt an allowance and expenses policy to formalise decisions.

The council has not had a specific policy to cover matters such as vehicle, travel and technology allowances but it has previously considered and made decisions about them.

The policy document, which is a requirement of the Remuneration Authority, is aimed at formalising those arrangements.

In May, questions about Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt’s car arose, following the disclosure his driver’s licence was suspended.

He did not want to reveal the reason for the suspension, but chief executive Clare Hadley said — at the time — he could keep his mayoral car despite his driver’s licence being suspended or someone else driving the mayoral vehicle.

The proposed elected member allowance and expense policy formalises this agreement, stating council may provide the mayor a car which may be used for restricted, partial or full private usage.

In that case, it would result in a deduction in the mayor’s salary based on the following formula — vehicle price x 41% x 20% = amount to be deducted from remuneration payable to Sir Tim.

The policy also stated other elected members did not have the benefit of a council car.

However, they would be allowed to claim vehicle mileage, if they were travelling in their own car to attend to local authority business and by the most direct route.

The vehicle kilometre allowance rate for the period July 1, 2021, to June 20, 2022, was set at 79c per kilometre for the first 14,000km.

The travel time allowance was $37.50 for each hour, up to a maximum of eight hours in any 24-hour period.

Sir Tim and councillors would have to have the approval of the chief executive for all trips related to local authority business, while any travel outside New Zealand had to have the approval of the full council.

A report from the council’s governance and administration interim team leader, Liz Williams, about the matter will be presented during its performance, policy and partnerships committee meeting tomorrow.

She is also proposing to refer the issue of child-care allowance to the incoming council after the next election in 2022.

In 2019, the Remuneration Authority introduced an allowance for elected members to claim child-care expenses.

The allowance was in response to widespread concerns from the local government sector that a lack of financial support for child care created a barrier to people, in particular women, who were seeking election.

Many councils had adopted the allowance or variations of it, but Invercargill had not had the opportunity to discuss it yet, Ms Williams said.

"It is proposed this issue be referred to the incoming council for consideration as to whether the council supports it in principle, who would be entitled to it, and what the maximum payment would be."

A decision about the matter is expected next week.

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