Lisa Scaffidi says councillors are under more scrutiny than State and Federal counterparts.
Lisa Scaffidi says councillors are under more scrutiny than State and Federal counterparts.

City of Perth councillors including Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi want the $300 limit on gifts they receive scrapped, saying the rules are unfair, archaic and stop them being able to properly represent their community.

The collective push, outside of council chambers, comes after they had to turn down invitations to watch the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the council-owned Perth Concert Hall next month because the tickets cost $300.

The Local Government Act bans councillors from accepting any gift worth $300 or more, including tickets by invitation.

State and Federal MPs can accept such gifts but must declare them.

The councillors said the issue was not about concert tickets, or gifts generally, but as leaders of a capital city council they were expected to attend such events.

Strict rules on their expense accounts prevented claims for events and councillors pointed out they received an allowance, not a salary.

"We are of the view it is putting us under more scrutiny than other tiers of government," Ms Scaffidi said.

"There is an expectation by some in the community to see our collective representation, especially for international visitors of such acclaim.

"While the events are pleasurable - no one is denying that - they are still a part of our expected duty."

State politicians must declare gifts of $500 or more and ministers have to declare gifts worth more than $300.

Federal MPs have to declare gifts over $750, which decreases to $300 for sponsored travel and hospitality. Long-serving councillor Janet Davidson said the situation was "a nonsense". She said the Act held councillors to far greater account than their State and Federal colleagues.

Cr Rob Butler said it was ridiculous that councillors had to turn down invitations for events at a council-owned venue because of rules that State MPs imposed but did not have to abide by themselves.

Ms Scaffidi said the council would write to Local Government Minister John Castrilli. But he gave the move short shrift yesterday, saying elected members should be "publicly accountable for gifts they receive to remove any perceived or actual conflict of interest that may arise".

He ruled out any exemptions.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said the $300 limit could impede the ability of some elected members to represent their constituents.

Mr Pickard said if the limits and allowances did not change to reflect inflation, it would be a bigger issue in coming years.

The West Australian

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