Councillors could receive security payment

Source: Illawarra Mercury

Councillors in the NSW Illawarra whose safety is being put at risk because of their civic roles could soon be able to boost their home security using ratepayer funds.

Wollongong City Council will tonight consider changing its councillor expenses policy to allow  elected officials to claim up to $2000 a year to protect themselves and their homes if they fear for their safety.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery will officially put the proposal to his fellow councillors in a motion to this evening’s meeting.

Under the changes, the council’s general manager, David Farmer, would determine councillors’ requests to pay for installing new or upgrading current  security systems after seeking police advice on the risk and history of the issue.

‘‘The council will, subject to substantiation, reimburse councillors for expenses that they may incur up to a limit of $2000 per year,’’ Cr Bradbery’s motion proposes.

‘‘Approval of the general manager must be sought and gained prior to any expenses being incurred by councillors.

‘‘Should an amount above the $2000 per year limit be required by any councillor, the matter will be referred to [the full] council for determination.’’

Cr Bradbery’s motion says the ‘‘protection measures’’ the money may cover could include a home security assessment, installation of a security system and/or physical monitoring.

The move comes almost two months after unknown perpetrators attacked the Helensburgh home of ward one councillor Greg Petty, cutting power to his house and disabling the property’s CCTV system.

Cr Petty claimed it was the 16th incident against him since his election to the council in September 2011, and believed the attacks were repeat attempts to intimidate him because of his stance on land zoning issues in the area.

Cr Bradbery was chastised by the public at the time for suggesting Cr Petty had engaged in ‘‘tit-for-tat’’ exchanges with some members of the community and was partly to blame for the sentiment against him.

Cr Petty yesterday welcomed the motion in principle, but claimed $2000 was too small a figure to provide adequate security for at-risk councillors.

He would not reveal how much he had spent purchasing and installing his own CCTV system, in place prior to the attacks, but confirmed the total cost was ‘‘many times more than’’ $2000.

‘‘And the police have told us, if we want to get clearer pictures we need better cameras, which cost about $3000 each,’’ Cr Petty said.

‘‘So, while this motion is a positive move and acknowledges that support does need to be provided to councillors, the nominated fee is grossly inadequate to cover the actual costs of setting up a system that you’re confident will give you protection.’’

The proposed changes to the policy will be put out for community comments for a month if they are approved by the council this evening.

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