GOVERNMENTS REVEAL FREMANTLE HAS WORST FINANCIAL RECORD & HIGHEST PAID MAYOR IN WA

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                          Work progressing on Fremantle Council’s new Administration Centre 

•Fremantle Has Highest Financial Risk Factor

•Brad Pettitt Top of the Financial League of Mayors

•Government Advise Ratepayers: ‘question council performances

Statistics, published in The West Australian (17th April 2018), show Dr Brad Pettitt has become the highest paid mayor in Western Australia.. These figures are confirmed by Fremantle Council’s accounts and exclude various allowances. 

Additional statistics, published in WA Government’s Financial Health Index (FHI), show that during Dr Pettitt’s tenure the City of Fremantle has fallen to the lowest position in the State with a Financial Health Index  figure of 44

In two of the immediate past three financial years the city had a low score of 42 and 44. In the Financial year of 2016-17 the score was also very low but the city changed its accounting methodology and elevated the FHI to 87. At that time Treasury issued a statement saying: ‘We stand by our original figures’.

Top Mayoral Salaries are:

Fremantle: $139,419

Joondalup: $139,410

Belmont:   $139,409

Bayswater: $139,310

The Financial Health Index of those Councils show:

Fremantle: 44

Joondalup: 61

Bayswater: 86

Belmont:   94

The higher the score, the better the financial health of a council. These scores are an indication of financial management and of services offered to ratepayers. They show ratepayers’ their value for money.

It is interesting to note the second lowest performance is Nedlands with an FHI of 50. Fremantle based consultancy LewiCorp Pty Ltd, owned by Chris Lewis who spearheaded the failed ‘Keep the Dockers in Fremantle’ campaign, is shown as being paid as a council adviser in the accounts of both Fremantle and Nedlands. Lewis was also instrumental in a fundraising campaign for Dr Pettit’s first mayoral campaign. 

GOVERNMENT ADVISES COMMUNITIES TO QUESTION COUNCIL PERFORMANCES

The WA Government website <https://mycouncil.wa.gov.au/Council/CompareAllCouncil> advise to ratepayers states: “A very high or low FHI may be a prompt for questions to be asked by the community about a local government’s revenue, expenses, and service delivery. The FHI is best viewed as a trend over time”

ACADEMIC THEORY- ARE THE CHOOKS COMING HOME TO ROOST ?

When Dr Pettitt was first elected mayor he stated: ‘. . . I’m delighted to be able to put my academic theories into practice in Fremantle . . . ’. but has never detailed his academic theories. After nearly ten years in the top job, and based on the performance of council under his leadership, the theories must be questioned.

A ratepayer-funded, multimillion dollar, public relations campaign has failed to halt the slide in the city’s fortunes. The campaign includes websites, newspaper advertising and a magazine which has ceased publication after council admitted it has failed. 

There is a growing impatience among ratepayers and businesses, a very high proportion of whom have closed shop and left or are struggling to pay higher rents and increasing rates in the face of falling customer numbers.

FAILED PROMISES

The city’s east end now has approximately 80 vacant retail premises with no sign of the resurgence of business promised as a result of the development of a Woolworth’s shopping centre (now prematurely closed). The increase of trade from residents expected from new developments have not materialised. Anectodal evidence indicates the LIV apartments are about 50% occupied following an increase in service personnel taking up residence..

In the instance of the re-development of Atwell Arcade the mayor promised that 300 people would be employed in the new offices. That was three years ago. So far there are about 40.

Without knowing Dr Pettitt’s academic theories it is difficult to comment but there is scant evidence of their success. There is no questioning Brad Pettitt’s youthful enthusiasm but after ten years it is reasonable to question the efficacy of his theories.

Over the next few weeks Fremantle Backchat will examine issues related to the current failure of the city to improve its financial position.

Part Two: Next Week. Council’s Lack of Transparency

Roger Garwood, Editor. <editorbackchat@gmail.com>

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FREMANTLE COUNCIL NOT IN BED WITH AirBnB

PUNITIVE TAX WILL FURTHER DAMAGE FREMANTLE’S ECONOMY

The Fremantle Herald recently published a story related to AirBnB (7th July ’18) which suggested Fremantle Council may have been pressured by hotel industry lobbyists to levy a rates surcharge on small accommodation rentals.

That punitive tax, which  raises only $35,000, will inflict further damage to the city’s battered economy.  Another levy on small business will not help the city or its retailers out of their financial crises and it’s doubtful it will help the ailing hotel market.

Visitors who choose to stay in AirBnB establishments may do so because they prefer not to stay in hotels. The offering of comfortable home accommodation to visitors is not necessarily a great deal cheaper than a hotel. Some travellers, often couples or family groups, may have been attracted to visit the city for something other than another festival but simply to enjoy the sights, the variety of restaurants and cafes and also the remaining retailers. Any saving in relation to accommodation costs frees up expenditure for enjoyment in other city attractions.

Hoteliers have a vested interest in encouraging guests to patronise hotel facilities which frequently include restaurants, cafes, spas, bars and small retail outlets. Visitors’ money spent in a hotel’s  in-house attractions is detrimental to local businesses.

Retailers in Fremantle’s West End who  offer a variety of  particularly funky shops are already paying elevated rates, ostensibly to be used by council to promote their businesses. That differential rate levy , originally established to support the BID scheme, has been diverted to a hand picked Destination Marketing committee by the cash strapped council.

One AirBnB operator, Alison Roberts, told The Herald: “All Airbnb and Homeaway owners already use their websites to promote Fremantle as a destination, recommending local eateries, tourism operators, retail outlets and artists”.

TAX CONCERTS INSTEAD

It would have been expedient and a greater revenue raiser for council to levy music festivals and other large scale ‘visiting businesses’ such as Winter World. Minutes from a SW council indicate Sunset Events festivals in their region were levied $20 a ticket. That’s not done here presumably because it was never considered or, as the Mayor publicly demonstrated, one of the Sunset company directors, David Chitty is a ‘mate’ of his. Also a  Chitty family member placed considerable funds into the mayor’s election  campaign.

A $20 per ticket levy to a music festival which attracts 10,000 patrons would raise $200,000 for council. Even a smaller festival of  2,000 patrons would raise  $40,000, considerably more than the Council’s punitive impost on the AirBnB businesses.

Most companies who operate festivals and other events are not based in Fremantle. They arrive, utilise the city’s amenities, make truck loads of money, and leave.  Festival patrons add little to the city’s retail businesses other than to booze barns, cafes (and possibly drug dealers). They also leave expensive clean up liabilities.

AirBnB hosts  offer friendly alternative accommodation services to the city. They attract people who may have responded to the council’s revised Destination Marketing program which, by coincidence, has hoteliers on its advisory board in addition to Chris Lewis. Lewis is the spin doctor who was instrumental with a few members of the G4F group, including Councillor Sullivan, in organising fundraisers for Brad Pettitt’s mayoral campaign.

ELECTED COUNCILLORS SHOULD ASK “DO THESE CONNECTIONS INDICATE CRONY CAPITALISM?”

Lewis’s company, LewiCorp PLC, was paid $22,000 by Fremantle Council for ‘Strategic Services’ rumoured to have been connected to the Keep Dockers in Fremantle campaign spearheaded by Lewis and his confrère, former WA Inc Premier Peter Dowding.

Lewis, Dowding and Pettitt  appeared unworried that to retain the team in the city would  cost city ratepayers in excess of $100,000,000.  The campaign failed as did Lewis’s attempt to gain a position on the Dockers’ board.

Fremantle has a Council, many of whose elected members appear to be unwilling or incapable of thinking outside The Square but apparent respond to  pressure from ‘mates’ in business or those who facilitate and lobby on behalf of businesses, including developers. It could be Crony Capitalism at its worst, a reflection of the corruption endemic during the governments of WA Inc. It is becoming clear that councillors should investigate who is behind the scenes, driving the city and advising the Mayor and some colleagues.

Note:
Crony Capitalism is defined as: “An economic system characterised by close, mutually advantageous relationships, between business leaders and government officials.”

 

Roger Garwood

Editor: backchatfremantle@gmail.com

SLAM DUNK IN FS ELECTION

Chris Lewis Defeated 84-22

The challenge for the leadership of the Fremantle Society resulted in a slam dunk victory for John Dowson.

Speeches by each candidate, mercifully restricted to five minutes each, were incisive but, in the end,  boiled down to delivery.

Lewis was casual in his approach but his voice didn’t carry well in the packed meeting and his enunciation was poor. He outlined a campaign for better quality in development, emphasised the need to revisit the town hall/King’s Square redevelopment and overall, called for balanced and harmonious development.

Dowson, not widely known for his speech presentations,  surprised the audience with a powerful, skilled and succinct speech calling for a robust and independent society which would assist change and evolution in the city.

The atmosphere in the room became electric. The campaign had been rugged and John Dowson’s supporters had been anticipating an embarrassing defeat.

Cathy Hall announced the results, saying 107 votes had been cast of which 106 were valid.
She slowly read: “John Dowson, 84 votes. Chris Lewis 22 votes”. After a few seconds of silence the hall erupted into applause for Dowson.

The count for committee members proceeded for well over an hour. In the end it was an almost clean sweep for John Dowson’s supporters.

Fremantle now has three strong organisations  aligned to challenge council and developers and ensure proper processes are followed: The Fremantle Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (FRRA), Fremantle Inner City Residents’ Association (FICRA) and The Fremantle Society.

By coincidence the Fremantle Society celebrated it’s 43rd birthday yesterday. Maybe this victory will go down in history as the icing on the cake.