19 May 2020

Questioning Expense of the Office of the Lord Mayor

It’s no secret that the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economy and many businesses and people are suffering.

The City of Sydney's response to support our community through this crisis has been crucial but it has had an immediate effect on the City's budget – we’re told that the City's revenue will be reduced by $35-$40 million in the next quarter.

And that amount could be even greater.

What is a secret are the details of the budget for the Office of Lord Mayor. Since the last election, the budget for this one political office has been in excess of $3.5 million a year.

As councillors, all we see is a single number in the budget papers.

No detail.

We can’t even get information about the process that comes up with this number.

We think – but this is not made public – that some of the expenses include a staff of 22 with a personal driver, a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, three secretaries, and a team of media advisers and policy advisers over and above the Council’s own media and policy advisers.

The Budget proposed for the upcoming financial year is $3.8 million, with even more increases planned for the coming years.

The public, let alone fellow City of Sydney Councillors, don’t even know how funds are being spent so we don’t know if it is value for money.

My issues are with transparency and accountability for ratepayers’ money.

At last night’s Council meeting I asked for an independent consultant to examine the budget, the staffing and the effectiveness of the Office of Lord Mayor and compare it to other cities and to report back to the Council’s Audit, Risk and Finance Committee.

That was supported by Councillor Craig Chung, and Councillor Christine Forster but it was voted down.

I intend to keep asking questions until I get the answers.

#transparency #accountability