Melton council has agreed to cap the amount it will spend on guest speakers for its International Women’s Day high tea at $5000 – in addition to the $10,000 it plans to spend hosting the annual event.

The council stirred controversy last year when it spent more than $16,000 – which had not been budgeted for – on an invitation-only high tea.

Watts ward councillor Lara Carli raised concerns that while council had decided last April to restrict the budget for future high teas to $10,000, there had been no explicit restriction placed on the amount that could be spent on guest speakers.

Councillors voted last Monday to approve an allowance of $5000 to cover speaker costs.

The theme for this year’s IWD mayoral event, on March 8, will be “Melton Women – Past, Present and Future”.

Council legal and governance manager Christine Denyer said proposed speakers for this year’s high tea would reflect the theme by including two Melton historians, Melton Woman of the Year Jane Sultana and an “inspiring” young sportswoman.

“None of these speakers are professional speakers and therefore would not demand a high fee,” Ms Denyer said.

“The fee for the historians is estimated at $2000. In relation to the Melton Woman of the Year and the young sportswoman, it is envisaged that there would be a small fee or donation to that person’s preferred charity.”

Cr Sophie Ramsey, who came under fire over the 2017 high tea when she was mayor, said that she still “wholeheartedly” supported the event.

“I copped a beating over the event costing ‘more than $20,000’, but it actually came in at just over $16,000, as it was later found,”
Cr Ramsey told the council meeting. “But I think this is a wonderful day … International Women’s Day will hopefully live on in the City of Melton for a long time.”