On behalf of the South Gippsland Action Group, I asked three questions regarding the use and costs of council cars.
The answers were supplied in the minutes of the last council meeting and we were, quite frankly, stunned.
The questions are at the end of the minutes (page 166) under 11.3 Submitted Public Questions.
The questions with abbreviated answers are:
Question 1: Can council advise the number of council-owned or leased vehicles (including on-call) permitted to be taken to private residences?
Answer: 41 vehicles.
Question 2: Can council advise the number of those vehicles permitted to be taken to private residences outside the South Gíppsland Shire boundaries?
Answer:  17 vehicles.
Question 3: Can council advise the number of officers permitted personal use of council-owned or leased vehicles?
Answer: 31 officers.
I contacted mayor Ray Argento to discuss these questions. He said perhaps some clarification was needed (fair enough), some changes were underway (would they be any better for ratepayers?) and when I said I wanted to go to the papers, he said to go for it.
Based on the RACV average total running costs for a medium car of 66 cents per kilometre, a 77 kilometre trip to say, Pakenham costs $50.82 or five return trips in a week $508.20.
Why should ratepayers pay for employees to drive to and from work, and provide a vehicle for personal use? Is there a culture of entitlement not available to the ordinary person?
We have been advised 25 per cent of shire employees live outside the shire. Is there a bias against locals?
Those who live outside the shire spend outside the shire and we pay for the travel of many. If the economic multiplier of 6:1 is correct, the South Gippsland economy is missing out on millions of dollars.
There are of course many more aspects to be considered but we believe the “raw” figures in the answers to our questions would amaze the community.
Steve Finlay, president, South Gippsland Action Group.