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Up, up and away: council votes for study tour of East London

Nobody used the word junket last night during Campbelltown Council debate on a proposal for one of its directors to join a six day study tour of East London in the UK from September 1.

But it would not have been far from anybody’s thinking as veteran councillor Paul Lake questioned the council general manager, Lindy Deitz, on the value of the trip, which will cost ratepayers $9,000 plus airfares.

In the end the support of the majority Labor councillors – who did not join in the questioning of this use of ratepayers money – ensured it got the green light when put to the vote.

But Cr Lake had a victory of sorts: whoever goes on this trip, and it looks like it will be the recently arrived director of city growth, Rebecca Grasso, will have to submit a report to the full council.

Cr Lake insisted this be added to the resolution put to the councillors, to replace the general manager’s suggestion that “a briefing be provided to the councillors and key staff on the insights obtained through the study tour’’.

“This will mean the local community, who are paying for the trip after all, get to see the report and what they got for their money,’’ Cr Lake said.

The former mayor also questioned Ms Grasso on the likely benefits of the trip, which is being organised by a Parramatta based lobby group, Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue.

Rebecca Grasso, Campbelltown Council’s director of city growth.

According to the general manager’s report to councillors, “the focus of the tour is on city-shaping, including governance, transport, housing, health, skills, innovation precincts, arts and public engagement, commercial and retail property, financing mechanisms and social cohesion’’.

The tour party includes Professor Barney Glover, vice-chancellor and  president of Western Sydney University, Dr Sarah Hill, chief executive officer of Greater Sydney Commission, Kerryn Vine-Camp, executive director of Western Sydney Unit, Commonwealth Department of infrastructure, regional development and cities, Leanne Bloch-Jorgensen, head of thought-leadership and insights, NAB Institutional Banking and Dr Tim Williams Australasia cities leader ARUP.

Canterbury-Bankstown is the only other council sending a representative along to this tour, Ms Deitz said in response to another question from Cr Lake.

She said Campbelltown Council had paid for seven international trips in the past three years.

Greens councillor Ben Moroney was the only other councillor to ask questions, saying he could see that checking out East London may benefit Western Sydney, but could not find the relevance for Campbelltown.

Cr Moroney did end up voting for Campbelltown taking part in the tour, saying, “I can see now how it would be good for personal development’’.

Cr Warren Morrison said he appreciated the questions asked by Cr Lake and was happy to support the trip.

“Whoever goes will gain knowledge and experience that they can bring back and apply here to our benefit,’’ he said.

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