Fremantle’s Mayors, Vague Response to Online Questions

We see online Brad’s vague comments to the month’s old, outstanding questions raised by Mr Lee in October last year.

I won’t try to paraphrase his comment so here it is in full.

“Roel
As I understand it the contested area is the assumptions that were used to reach the outcome we did including a general rates uplift, 20 year timeframe, discounted rate of 5.5% and the value of enhanced Fremantle Council owned assets. If you assume the above then it is clear to see how we reached the stated rate of return and NPV. All of these assumptions were published in the business plan and could have been contested during the advertising period. Council, on the advice of City of Fremantle staff and independent experts was comfortable these assumptions were well justified.
Glen is on leave this week and he may want to provide a more technical response on his return.
The Minister for Local Government is now looking at this as well and assuming that after his review he also is comfortable with the business plan then that should give the Fremantle community further confidence that the Fremantle Council has got this right.
I think the scrutiny of this project is a good thing (despite it being rather delayed) given the size of the investment the Fremantle Council is looking to undertake but it probably doesn’t need to be done in a way that doesn’t start with the untrue assumption that the Fremantle Council isn’t been straight and trying to hide something. We have nothing to hide and our proud of the potential of this project for Freo. In my view the biggest challenge for Kings Sq is when will it get to start!
Cheers, Brad”

So what answers have we got from this;

  • A couple of lines recapping the business plan with lots of assumptions
  • Glens on holidays
  • The minister for LG is looking into it, sort of has too after questions in parliament where raised? But other than seeing the city has a business plan and tick the box yes Minister it’s here, I doubt from past experience they will be looking too deep?
  • Brad now thinks scrutiny is a good thing and they have nothing to hide. Well with everything out in the open now what choice do they have?
  • Also from a days old blog post, brad dropped Roel a link to the council website with the answers to nothing that was actually asked, this one is starting to sound like a Monty Python sketch, Nudge nudge, wink wink…….

So what do we make of this or what further questions can we ask from this?

  • The business plan we have, not the info/detail/reports, documents, minutes, attachments behind it, which is what Mr Lee was asking for, why is it hidden?
  • Happy Holidays Glen I’m sure he’s glad he’s on holidays right now
  • Well we know that the minister is looking at this issue, will he actually answer Mr Lees questions, what he needs to do is just instruct council to properly answer the questions before them from Mr Lee, if no one wants to do this, then the natural questions is WHY, what’s to hid???????
  • If the COF is so happy to answer the questions they get and think scrutiny is a good thing when why didn’t they just answer Mr Lee’s first round of questions; they are making one statement but their actions so far, tell another story.
  • Why did council drag this out, going on 7 months now, still not close to being resolved?
  • How much money is being spent on consultants and lawyers for the city to decide how they communicate with its residents?
  • Where does the Councils 1st obligation lie, to their residents and ratepayers (the electors) or private business?

 

Why has the council forced the residents to take this issue to the ministers for LG Office, Local MLA’s,,,,,?

  1. Have questions asked in Parliament?
  2. Raise questions to the press, writing thinking allowed pieces, comments pieces?
  3. Whole dialogues online in blogs etc?
  4. Why did they use the local paper to chastise or belittle a resident asking questions when they tell us they are happy to have been asked, so which was it defensive or inviting? Perhaps more offensive?
  5. Let’s not forget the request that council was talking up for a $3million investment in Match before council had even met to discuss the issue, then it dropped suddenly as the public asks questions and the same day the questions on COF hit parliament.

After all of this now we should believe that they want to have an open discussion, that they like scrutiny on this issues, I wonder what Mr Lees opinion on this would be 7 months after he wrote an email to council asking a couple of simple questions on their business plan.

Yes how could anyone possibly come to the assumption that the Fremantle Council isn’t been straight with its electors and trying to hide something?

Perhaps the Minster for Local Government needs to read his own quote in a press release on the 26/02/2015 “The Minister described the Commission’s report as a “wake-up call”.

This said perhaps Minister you should just follow the recommendation the commission gave recommending “that the jurisdiction of the Auditor General be extended to specifically include local government, thus bringing Western Australia into line with Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.  The proposed change echoes previous recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee in 2006.”

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6 comments

  1. Its the old saying, if its too good to be true it probably is. I think the Mayor is starting to believe his own hype now. Nobody is trying to put a downer on this project, but you cant just write positive stories all the time while neglecting whats actually happening and the questions people are asking. You might as well reach for the Kool-aid.

    There is $50 million being spent on a Council chambers building which has been justified by dodgy numbers and a very questionable business plan. That’s essentially everything in the bank and only if it gets built on time and on spec. The Mayor is basically trying to convince everyone they shouldn’t asked questions about the validity of why they are doing this. I don’t think he even realises or is that convinced that its a great project. He’s just hoping that it all the scrutiny will all go away. Or, resort to personal attacks as we have seen and I have experienced.

    Surely there is a better way to spend this sort of money. The City of Fremantle want to sell off numerous assets to build a building for itself. There is realistically zero net positive gain other than a sparkly new building for the City’s already overstaffed employees to enjoy. An upgrade to the Library and the tourist booth. There are no guarantees its going to redevelop or reinvigorate this area, just assumptions and lots of them.

  2. Paul says:

    Matthew,
    As a past and presumably prospective candidate, what would you have done in this situation. When I ask that, your answer needs to be in at least as much detail as you are critical off the incumbent.

    What would you have done for costing and benefit analysis. How would you have handled the public commentary aspects, and then the provision of the facts, to the ratepayers?

    It would be easy for you to make sweeping motherhood statements about this, but we will see through those, give us your detail.
    What is your critieria for making decisions about better ways to spend CoF Funds?

    If you can’t do that then what are we ratepayers to make of a candidate who can’t practise what he preaches?

    Paul

    • Mark says:

      I don’t know about Matthew but here are a few other thought I have;
      1st of all Paul I don’t know if I would have voted at a meeting that seems to be have called last minute and with no agenda published for the community to have a chance of attending. But proposed it be deferred to allow the proper notification time to be given to the rate payer and residents (electors)
      Second I don’t if I would have agreed to sell a city asset that was giving the city over a 10% return
      Thirdly I certainly wouldn’t have voted to have the meeting as confidential for such an important issue involving such a substantial amount of city assets/funds.
      Furthermore I would have abstained or voted against a motion if I thought I did not have enough information to make an informed decision, bit hard to see in this case what a Councillor would have voted for as its been hidden from our view. I don’t think anyone could make a decision that was purely based on that business plan
      On from that, I would be inquiring why the council does not follow the intent of SG14.
      It’s also very hard to see if hypothetically how someone would vote on such an issue as we don’t have all the facts, due to the cone of silence that’s detailed questions are given on this issue, instead we get the flowery rhetoric and complete lack of substance we have heard from the council so far.
      I don’t know if as Councillor I would be copying the current state governments plan sale of assets just to have a new place to play in. It’s getting a bit of a Bell Tower story to it.
      We see the council use the library as reason for the need of a new building, if the library is such a draw card and needed amenity for our community why has the council, closed the library hours earlier during the week by 6pm they are helping to make the CBD a ghost town, especially leading into summer? Is that so, in the future they can open a new library increase the hours and tell us how it brings more people in after 6pm hence activating the Sq, as after 6pm now its great if u want to listen to colourful expletives from drunks.
      Then I would also question the complete lack of action in all the city visionary stuff for the greater Freo as everything is CBD orientated. A question u yourself raised at the Freo future presentation in the Reception room, I also note that the real meat of your question was nicely edited out of the video I saw on the council site to a simple line or two question, nothing to the question and genuine intent you seemed to have had as u asked it? Isn’t editing great bit like confidential meetings, keep the real stuff from view and just spin out the vision or PR piece?
      It’s got so you can’t walk down the street without someone asking why all the secrets, what were the questions, lucky we all know the answer is 42.

    • I think the whole issue is that the City of Fremantle are grasping at straws when it comes to an effective project, that in their eyes will be “transformational”. I’m not sure that rebuilding the City of Fremantle HQ is entirely in the best interests of the people of Fremantle, especially as it comes at the expense of Queensgate, the massive car park and the spicers site. All of these are cash producing assets, which owe no money and year on year deliver a very good return for the ratepayers of Fremantle.

      By selling these off you are burdening the ratepayers with a loss of income which will have to be picked up elsewhere. This will include possibly changes to the budget allocation for cycling infrastructure for instance, parks maintenance, or rates will have to increase, or a combination of all three. The business plan they are trying to implement puts the burden back onto the ratepayer and over a 20 year period where these losses will be slowly inched back to what is effectively our current position. There is modelling that might suggest an increase, but no guarantees.

      My point has always been that we pay way too much rates. Above and beyond similar neighbouring Local Governments and receive less services. Most gets spent in the City centre and very little gets transferred out to the suburbs. There needs to be better financial management and more scrutiny when it comes to spending $50 million of ratepayers money and taking on debt, especially when that money comes from selling assets off and building a new luxury office for the employees of the City of Fremantle.

      I certainly wouldn’t be out as a pseudo salesman for Match, trying to tie a poor investment of 5 residential units to the City so as to realise the dream of the Mayor to get the project off the ground and effectively bind a loss to the City of Fremantle’s people. Similarly I wouldn’t try and lock the City of Fremantle people into a 50 year loan so as to rejuvenate the Heritage Warders Cottages, which is a State Government responsibility, just because I like to see my name appear in the paper.

      The Mayor is supposed to be listening to the people of Fremantle and making sure that their wishes and decisions are being relayed and put forward first and foremost. I’m not sure who controls what at the City of Fremantle, by I think the CEO definitely wears the pants and is making the decisions. The current Mayor is a puppet.

      Why hasn’t the Mayor put forward a motion regarding the amount of parking being used by City of Fremantle employees? He is so against parking, yet we are giving it away to the Staff and forcing the residents and visitors to pay for it. It wasn’t that long along a scare campaign was run by the Mayor regarding the millions of dollars that could be lost if a 3 hour free parking limit was given to encourage shopping back into the City of Fremantle, yet, we give unlimited parking to City employees. If this development goes through, the City will have to pick up the tab for this parking stipend for the staff. No clues as to who will have to pay for this.

      Like I said, double standards, dodgy business plans, good salesmanship and plenty of publicity. The cracks are starting to appear.

      If the previous Mayors and councilors (and I don’t include the current lot) have worked hard to build a large asset base, which is debt free. Why would you sell it unless you thought you knew you could provide the people of Fremantle an even better return. You realistically should be working hard to minimise the rates burden to your ratepayers and maximise the amount of services back to the ratepayers through efficient business practices. This includes getting every single possible grant from both Federal and State governments when available.

  3. Alastair Williams says:

    It does make one wonder what the Mayor and the Council are trying to hide. It could be their ineptitude they wish to cover, or…maybe something more sinister.

    A great example of what happens when local governments deviate from rates, rubbish and roads.

    • Mark says:

      Alastair thanks for your comment.
      A good question, what is going on?
      Perhaps why its been recommended to the Minister for LG to have the Auditor General bring Local government into his arena.

      Thats Probably what the residents and ratepayers need to restore confidence in the system is too see a unbiased entity (like the auditor general) give the whole project and forward projections as noted in the Herald a through review or investigation. Perhaps with an open public forum before, for the electors to raise other concerns to be looked into?

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