The school bell's about to ring for Whanganui's district councillors.

The lessons they're going to receive are all in the name of professional development, something the council budgets for in its Annual Plan.

It's aimed at giving the the councillors the skills they need when they tackle a raft of different issues coming to the council table.

Charlotte Almond, general manager - strategy, told this week's council meeting that professional development was intended to broaden the knowledge of councillors across a number of areas.

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"Council's involved in a broad range of activities, including roading, investment, planning, pensioner housing, forestry, wastewater treatment and economic development.

"The strategies and policies that develop these facets are decided by our elected members," Ms Almond said.

She said to make decisions on such a broad spectrum, councillors need an understanding and up-to-date information about the activity they might be considering.

Professional development is covered through a range of in-house and off-site courses and workshops, involving Local Government NZ presenters, independent consultants and council's own staff.

Ms Almond told councillors that to make sure this investment in their development "pays dividends" to the community, attendance at on-site workshops should be considered mandatory and attendance at off-site courses "a privilege to be pursued".

But she said the programmes would always have to be relevant to the council's business so any related travel, accommodation and meal costs would have to show up as a "prudent use of ratepayer funds.

The cost of these courses varies, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $4500 a day for groups.