PORT Stephens ratepayers could foot the bill for at least one councillor to take a five-day course that would cost ratepayers up to $10,800.
Port Stephens Council governance manager Tony Wickham’s report to Tuesday’s council meeting is seeking expressions of interest from elected councillors to consider joining a company director’s course to “further their skills and knowledge, in particular around governance”.
Mr Wickham noted the opportunities lined up with recent changes to the Local Government Act “moving the focus to providing greater opportunities to allow elected members to undertake professional development to better understand their roles as a public official.”
The Sydney-based course costs $7700 for a member or $10,800 for a non-member. The first year of membership is $795, with subsequent years $575.
The council must approve any professional development costing more than $2000.
Cr Jaimie Abbott had sought approval for the course, which she said had an emphasis on ethics and responsibility in decision-making.
Cr Abbott said she wanted this particular option available to all councillors.
“I am really enthusiastic about the importance of training in good governance for councillors,” she said.
“I have learned so much already, I’m embracing every opportunity to be the best representative I can be for the community.
“So far I have attended all the local government courses on offer, they have been helpful and have encouraged me to want to do more so ratepayers can be assured their councillors are making educated decisions on their behalf with clarity.”
Mr Wickham wrote the company director role the course was aimed at “is similar to that of a councillor given individuals need to have an understanding of their role and the compliance issues of a council, better understand the governance expectations and have a strategic focus.”