Council keeps rein on party cost

THE Southern Downs Regional Council's staff Christmas bash will cost ratepayers about $4500, a council spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

The party was held on Thursday afternoon at an undisclosed council-owned location, after all council offices and services closed at midday.

Final invoices are still due to come in after 400 staff enjoyed an afternoon and evening of barbecuing and beers.

At roughly $13 a head, the catering bill was a far cry from that lavished by Toowoomba Regional Council on its staff at their annual festive season shindig held yesterday.

Calculations show the $39,000 spent on entertaining 800 Toowoomba council staff worked out to just under $50 a head, with Mayor Peter Taylor justifying the cost by saying the employees had been through "a tough year".

The families of Toowoomba council staff were invited to the party, but here on the Southern Downs it was an employee-only affair, at which staff cooked their own snags.

A source claimed to the Daily News earlier in the week there was traditionally no budget or "upper limit" on spending for the council Christmas bash and that if the beer ran out staff were free to go and top up the eskies at the expense of ratepayers.

It was also suggested that the council used the kitchen facilities it owns at Slade Campus, effectively invoicing itself for its own services.

But the council spokeswoman dismissed such claims yesterday, saying the budget for both this year and last was $5000 and the final bill in 2010 had come in well under that amount at $4498.45.

"It is a very modest budget for a staff of this size," she said.

"It's a low-key event similar to a sporting grounds barbecue with coleslaw, onions, sausages and so on, and is cooked by an organising committee of our staff on site.

"No catering was provided by Slade and the committee bought the meat direct from the butchers and the rolls direct from the bakery."

"There is a maximum budget set and the event does not run over budget," the spokeswoman said.

"If supplies run out some staff may choose to continue the party elsewhere and buy their own food and drinks."

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