Free beer despite policy

This is the latest in a series of articles regarding Cessnock Councillors and alcohol.

For more information regarding allegations of Councillors being affected by alcohol at a meeting see http://www.theherald.com.au/story/462952/cessnock-councillor-says-he-wasnt-drunk/

and commentary on Cessnock Council discussion of adopting a drug and alcohol policy which appies to Councillors see http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1828988/push-to-apply-alcohol-policy-to-councillors/?cs=305

James Ryan

Free beer despite policy

By DAMON CRONSHAW

Oct. 9, 2013, 11 p.m.

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CESSNOCK councillors will subject  themselves to a drug and alcohol policy similar to council workers – but will still have access to free beer after council meetings.

Greens councillor James Ryan last night said that while he supported the drug and alcohol policy, which  was ‘‘long overdue’’, he didn’t think free beer after meetings was proper.

He was not opposed to drinks being available but believed councillors should pay for them.

‘‘They can have as much beer as they like,’’ Cr Ryan said of the council’s beer fridge arrangement.

‘‘Most people wouldn’t want ratepayers’ money spent on free beer.’’

Cr Ryan made the comments after councillors unanimously approved a drug and alcohol policy to apply to themselves.

Liberal Councillor Bryce Gibson called for the policy, saying councillors should be subject to the same standards as council staff.

‘‘We should lead by example,’’ Cr Gibson said.

Councillors voted unanimously last month for a policy on alcohol and drugs to be introduced for council staff ‘‘as soon as practicable’’.

Asked what he thought about free beer being available to councillors after meetings, Cr Gibson said: ‘‘In most 21st-century workplaces, the beer fridge has been extinct for some time.’’

The Newcastle Herald reported in 2011 that a group of Cessnock councillors were known as ‘‘the beer club’’ because they allegedly stayed back after council meetings drinking alcohol.

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

Cr Ryan said it wasn’t a good look when the beer club was in operation last council term.

‘‘It’s more civilised now,’’ he said.

Cr Ryan said that although he was not suggesting  ‘‘anyone is really hammering it … it shouldn’t be unlimited alcohol at ratepayers’ expense’’.

‘‘We get treated OK, we get a free meal,’’ he said.

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