By any measure, dinner and accommodation at Shoal Bay Country Club is not a bad way to spend Friday evening.
But should Newcastle’s ratepayers have to pick up the tab for a perk provided to Newcastle’s councillors as part of a strategic planning workshop this weekend?
A Newcastle council spokesman said the cost of the accomodation and meeting facilities was $9600 and was funded from councillor's learning and development budget.
He said a conscious decision was made to run the workshop outside of Newcastle.
“The objective is to foster collaboration between executive management and councillors in an environment where they are free of the distractions that often pop up when they are around the corner from home or work,” he said.
“The workshop is an opportunity for senior staff and councillors to collaborate on a number of key strategic projects that the executive management team will be progressing throughout 2019 as well as an updating the priorities in the long term financial plan over the next four and 10 years.”
While 11 of the 13 councillors attended the workshop several chose not to stay for dinner or stay overnight.
“It’s an absolute disgrace to ask ratepayers to pay for it,” councillor Allan Robinson, who stayed nearby, said.
Cr John Church said he would drive back home after the workshop and would not attend the dinner or require accommodation.
“I have been very critical of the lord mayor’s Supercars lunches over the past two years. It would be hypocritical of me to ask ratepayers to pay for my dinner and accommodation at Shoal Bay,” he said.
“I am also of the view there are plenty of places within Newcastle where the strategic planning meeting could have been held.”
Cr Church said he believed strategic planning was an important part of an effective council.
“I’m all for councillors and staff sitting down together outside of the council chamber to discuss the direction of the organisation for the next 12 months,” he said.