Mayor criticised over her $270 childcare bill

14/01/2019 Posted by admin

Holding firm: Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she had no choice but to take her daughter with her on the overseas trip.THE state’s local government minister has hit out at the “wasteful” use of public money afterreports Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmescharged ratepayers $270 for childcare while on an overseas junket.
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But Cr Nelmes has defended the decision, saying the trip was taken “at very short notice” during school holidays and that she “wouldn’t have been able to attend” without taking her nine-year-old daughter.

News Corporation reported on Thursday thatCr Nelmes billed ratepayers forone day of childcare for her daughter while on a council trip to Singapore last year, despite the council’s chief executive warning her to consider how the expense would fare against the “pub test”.

In an email to Cr Nelmes’ office the council’s interim boss Frank Cordingley warned the lord mayor to “consider how this request would pass the “pub test”.

“In terms of how the ratepayers of Newcastle would regard her actions of taking her daughter with her on an overseas trip to attend a conference, and was then “minded” at the ratepayers expense while the Lord Mayor attended the conference,” Mr Cordingley wrote.

The decision has drawn criticism from her opponents on council, with Brad Luke, a Liberal Party councillor, sayinghe didn’t think it was an appropriate use of ratepayers money.

“I don’t think the averageperson would say that it’s appropriate, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

But Cr Nelmes defended the decision, saying she had no choice but to take her daughter with her on the trip and that she was “pretty confident” the $270 billwas the only time she had used a carers expense in the current term.

Under local government expenses rules, Cr Nelmes is allowed to claim up to $6000 a year in childcare costs.

Cr Nelmes has three children, and told theNewcastle Heraldshe had used her carer allowance while attending meetings in previous terms “when the kids were very young”.

She said she would not have taken her daughter on the trip if it was not school holidays at the time.

“I can’t just ask my husband to take a week off work because I have to go away on council business,” she said.

Asked about the claim the NSW local government minister Gabrielle Upton said; “ratepayer funds should never be wasted on unnecessary expenses”.

“The community has a right to set high expectations for their councils to spend ratepayers’ money appropriately,” she said.

The ministerstopped short of saying she would order an investigation, saying concerned ratepayers could lodge complaintswith the department.

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