The Beer Club

Query on Cessnock ‘beer club’

BY DONNA SHARPE
18 May, 2011 04:00 AM

A GROUP of Cessnock councillors – allegedly known as “the beer club” – who stay back after council meetings drinking alcohol may have to take their “sessions” elsewhere after tonight’s council meeting.

Greens councillor James Ryan has questioned the cost of alcohol and staff time when councillors remain after meetings, and a report on the issue will be presented tonight.

Cr Ryan said the small group was known as the beer club and there was a perception they stayed “fairly late” after meetings and had “a bit of a session”.

He said a council staff member had to stay behind to lock up.

Cr Ryan declined to name the group but said he was uncomfortable with the idea of unlimited, free alcohol available for councillors.

The Herald surveyed Hunter councils in January last year asking if alcohol was consumed before, during or after meetings, after Gloucester council banned alcohol from council meeting lunches.

At the time, a spokesman for Cessnock council said no alcohol was consumed.

Cr Ryan said mayor Alison Davey banned the consumption of alcohol before meetings.

“I don’t care if they [councillors] go to the pub or stay and discuss something over a cup of tea and some biscuits but I am not comfortable with the access to free alcohol at the expense of council,” he said.

“It’s a waste of money.”

A report to tonight’s meeting by financial services manager Robert Maginnity said that no direct staff cost was incurred when councillors stayed for drinks after meetings.

“As in most cases the staff members involved have attendance at council meetings as part of their employment contracts and as such do not claim either overtime or time in lieu for attendance,” the report said.

It said alcohol was ordered, on average, every two months, taking staff an estimated 15 to 20 minutes per order at a cost of about $300 in direct staff time a year.

The annual cost of refreshments, including alcohol, soft drinks and water, for the councillors’ fridge was about $2400 for 2011-12.

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