Mayor Ron Bellingham.
Mayor Ron Bellingham. Jenna Cairney

$330,000 and still counting

AS further proof that lawyers are always the winners, Southern Downs ratepayers have forked out more than $330,000 for council legal bills this term and it's not over yet.

Cases which council has fought since 2008, and in some cases lost, include development application appeals, animal control prosecutions, building code compliance and other legal matters.

A Southern Downs Regional Council spokeswoman said a total bill of $331,271 - and 20 cents - has been racked up in the current term and with several court matters still running the figure could run as high as half a million by the end of this financial year.

The spokeswoman said the figure did not include what she termed "corporate legal costs", such as the drawing up of leases and contracts.

But council was unable to provide details of the number of individual court cases it has finalised, with the spokeswoman saying to gather such information would take up too much staff time.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said it was a "legal minefield in this day and age".

"Because of the complexity of the system under which we work there is an ever-increasing need for legal advice for protection of council and protection of people," he said.

"What we spend on legals is very low compared to other government organisations and I'm actually quite surprised at how low the four-year legal figure is.

"The contestable planning scheme decisions are always going to incur costs."


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