22 Feb 10 @ 01:31pm by Hamish Heard
Anyone home? Melbourne City Council staffers and councillors are often out of town.
GLOBE trotting Melbourne councillors and Town Hall staffers last year enjoyed more than 200 interstate and overseas trips.
The council’s travel register reveals councillors took 20 trips in 2009, eclipsing the eight taken the previous year under then Lord Mayor John So.
Council officers also caught the travel bug, flying interstate or overseas 184 times costing ratepayers well over $200,000.
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The sky-high figures came despite a pre-election pledge from Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to clamp down on councillor junkets.
“I may take the occasional trip to Frankston,” Cr Doyle told reporters leading up to the November 2008 election.
But council documents show the Lord Mayor featured prominently on the list of frequent flyers, clocking up trips to Denmark, England and Singapore as well as three trips to Sydney and four to Canberra.
While his domestic travels cost nearly $10,000 (an average of $1637 for each night spent interstate), Cr Doyle has refused to supply details of his December jaunts to London and Denmark for climate talks.
Details for Cr Doyle’s entourage, including chief of staff Alister Paterson and adviser Amelia Bitsis, were also being kept secret despite Greens Cr Cathy Oke declaring her expenses for the same trip at $3752.
Pre-trip estimates predicted the Copenhagen summit would cost ratepayers $61,000.
Cr Doyle refused to answer Melbourne Leader questions about why councillors and staffers had taken half as many trips in the first year of his term as they did during the entire four-year term under his predecessor.
“The Lord Mayor won’t be responding to any of the travel questions,” a Town Hall spokeswoman said.
Cr Peter Clarke had the biggest travel bill of all councillors who chose to declare their expenses, courtesy of a $20,000, seven-day fact-finding mission to the US.
Cr Oke spent the most time abroad, with 26 days in countries including Denmark, Canada, the US and South Korea.
Her expenses were $15,845, which she said helped Melbourne keep pace with sustainability.