Let them eat cake

Lord Mayor James Franklin, and wife Alice

Lord Mayor James Franklin and wife Alice

For some reason Dodgy Perth has decided to look at a time when Lord Mayors tried to restrain spending on hospitality, not simply indulge in it. It’s not like it’s a topical issue at the moment, or anything.

A century ago, Perth City Council was entitled to spend up to three percent of its revenue on running the council itself. This included entertainments for guests and treats for councillors. Stirred up by the media, ratepayers used to get very cross about fat elected officials drinking port and smoking cigars while the honest man was suffering the effects of the Great Depression.

To counter the outrage, in 1932 Lord Mayor James Franklin ensured each councillor was issued with twenty coupons a fortnight. Each coupon could be exchanged for one drink, one cigar or one packet of cigarettes. On principal, four of the twenty-five councillors refused their share of coupons.

But by mid-1933 the system was already on the verge of collapse. Somehow more coupons were being used than supplied and the budget was running into debt. More seriously, though, was that sometimes the Lord Mayor had to dip into his own pocket when receiving overseas visitors and take them to the local hotel when he had run out of vouchers.

Can you imagine a Lord Mayor dipping into their own pocket, rather than just corporate hospitality’s? Practically unthinkable in 2015.

After several councillors expressed dissatisfaction with the whole scheme, Perth City Council did what councils always do. They referred the matter to a committee to come up with a report.

Referring things to committees is always better than making decisions. Always.