Our say | Jess Jennings’ drinks ban plan a winner however you look at it

JESS Jennings has hit on a fool-proof way of winning public support this time.

As the former Labor candidate for the federal seat of Calare who still holds higher career ambitions, Cr Jennings is naturally one of the more political members of council – and, it naturally follows, one of the most divisive.

During the previous term of council he had something of a running battle with former mayor Gary Rush [himself a member of the Nationals] and the new term started with Cr Jennings lobbying his colleagues hard to win the four extra votes he would have needed to become mayor.

That bid ultimately failed, but Cr Jennings is not one to stay down for long.

His latest proposal is to bring an end to the supply of free alcohol to council staff and councillors following each of their meetings.

And, unlike some of his previous policies, this is a proposal is a mission that has already won plenty of local support.

Lest he be labelled a wowser, Cr Jennings has made it clear he is not against anyone having a drink at the end of the meeting, but he can see no reason for ratepayers to foot the bill.

Unsurprisingly, ratepayers tend to agree it would be a brave councillor indeed who chose to speak out against the proposal within the chamber.

While Bathurst Regional Council cannot say exactly how much is spent on booze following meetings, we can be sure the numbers are quite low when considered as part of a $100 million annual budget.

But, as Cr Jennings says, it is the perception that matters – and no councillor would want to be perceived as having their snout in the trough on this one.

And whatever the final sum might be, it would surely be better spent on a local sporting or community group.

So Cr Jennings has found a topic that wins him favour among the voters while leaving his colleagues unable to mount any serious case against him.

It is clever politics – but is also the right thing for council to do.

We agree it is fair enough to offer a meal to councillors and staff who may not finish their meeting until late in the night but free alcohol is a step too far.

Dubbo has already banned the free booze and we would not expect it to take long for Bathurst to follow suit.

This certainly won’t be the biggest issue this current term of council has to tackle, but it should be one of the easiest.