From the Chamber

20 people in the public gallery for August’s Council meeting was more than I have seen for months, brought about by development applications in Jarvis and Swanbourne Streets attracting interest.  Unfortunately emotions were running high and two speakers made unfounded disparaging remarks about members of Council.  Controversial planning issues require good decision making skills and I know all Councillors, whichever way they voted, applied those skills.  While it is tempting for an aggrieved applicant or neighbour to consider a Councillor’s vote as total support or rejection of their case, the truth is far from that.  By their very nature controversial decisions are generally line-ball calls, for me one of them came down to 49/51%, I only came to a decision when listening to the summing up by the mover of the motion.  Each and every one on Fremantle Council puts in a lot of work, work motivated by a desire to make Fremantle a better place, are we driven by passion?  Yes!  Are we driven by motives of self-gain?  Definitely not.

On a more positive note, it was good to see the council machine working well on the Point Street site.  Council is determined to ensure it’s site between Cantonment and Adelaide Streets acts as a stimulus for good development in the run-down east end.  Amendment 49 relaxes the planning constraints on this site, while the amendment is still with the Minister for determination; Officers of the City are preparing themselves to act as soon as approval is given.  The planning department brought an item to rescind a policy that will be redundant under amendment 49 and simultaneously corporate services presented Council with a Business Plan for sale of the site by tender, a plan aimed at achieving high quality development.

The upgrade of Cappuccino Strip and Little Market Street was supported.  It was good to see City Ward Councillor Pemberton working with the traders to get an improved outcome with the use of ‘urban stone’ pavers in Little Market St, securing it as a Place-Making hub.

At a community level a request to change a Local Law to allow ‘off leash’ dog exercising on North Fremantle’s Gilbert Fraser Oval took it’s first steps.  If this is an issue of interest to you look out for an opportunity to make a submission, because ultimately it is the strength of submissions that will determine the outcome.  Another community issue was support for grant funding from the Department of Sport and Recreation for Fremantle and Mosman Park Cricket Club.  With Local Government reform just around the corner Fremantle needs to take more interest in Mosman Park, there is a strong ‘community of interest’ across this border.  Draft Public Art Policy and Plan’s were adopted – look out for Fremantle Arcadia, Temporary Public Art Plan.

Two Councillor ‘Notices Of Motion’ came from Strategic and General Services Committee, one from the Mayor for Council support for Oxfam’s GROW Campaign to support subsistence farmers regain food security in a world of ever increasing demand for arable land and water.  The other was from Cr Wainwright and myself, authorising us to take Council’s concerns relating to inequities in community services funding to a Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) meeting.  Currently councils get 15% (soon to be increased to 25%) less funding than Not for Profit and religious organisations to provide essential community services. This prices committed councils such as Fremantle out of the market.

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6 Responses to From the Chamber

  1. freoview says:

    It is a shame that some members of the public accuse elected members of self interest bordering on fraudulent behaviour. The community should have more respect for the elected members and acknowledge they do the best they can.

    There are many occasions I don’t agree with council decisions, but I would never question the integrity of those who voted contrary to what I feel is right.

    It is important to see the common ground and that we all want the best for Fremantle.

    Elected members give up a huge amount of time to serve the community and they deserve our gratitude.

    Roel Loopers

    • Jon Strachan says:

      Thanks Roel, your comments are appreciated. Maybe we are so tied up in the work we do we neglect to communicate as well as we should with the community and that information vacuum creates speculation?

      • freoview says:

        Maybe individual councillors do not communicate as well as they could and that is why the us and them thinking is still around in the community. Us versus the council. This Black&White thinking is not helpful at all in my opinion.
        Roel Loopers

  2. dianaryan says:

    Its a shock to read in your blog that Fremantle will end its [commitment] to funding essential community services unless it receives more money from the state, Jon.

    In fact, it would make it the first Council in Perth to have made this alarming determination, to my knowledge.

    I recall reading that the Council had been advised by city officers over a year ago that, as councils were not recipients of additional funding from the Barnett Govt’s People Budget, then community services would have to need to be reviewed as to whether the City should continue them.

    Surely the Council could have re-prioritised within its $80m budget in that time?

    What if there had been no People’s Budget, that ostensibly provided additional money to improve the salaries of those in the essential services sector? Wouldn’t the Council have simply continued to manage its budget accordingly?

    What exactly are you hoping will happen, as a result of your submission to WALGA, Jon? That the Barnett Govt will reverse its decision, or that Labor will make a one-off payment to each council if it is returned to office?

    If the Dockers moved in to state of art facilities in Freo as at 2000, but 12 years later have declared them no longer fitting for elite athletes, won’t you always be playing catch up there, in order to retain the club?

    I think its unfortunate that Fremantle is leading in a very sad way, here. I sincerely hope other councils do not now follow.

  3. jonstrachan says:

    Hi Diana,
    I think it’s clear that the Barnett Government’s move to privatise community services is succeeding. When the 15% preference was introduced most councils by and large supported it hoping it would result in improved wages for workers in the private care sector. I’m in no doubt some councils were relieved to pass these responsibilities on to the private sector.
    Operational requirements on Councils and a commitment by Fremantle to pay a fair wage means we could never compete with the private sector when tendering to provide these services with the result rate payers have to fill the gap. Currently Fremantle Councillors vote to support us continuing to provide these services. Councils have a fiduciary responsibility to get the best value for rate payers money, once the discrepancy moves to 25% it will be almost impossible to rationalise the cost of providing community services.
    The motion passed WALGA Zone unanimously, this recommendation will now go to State Council. The latest news is that a local government rep has been invited to the Premier’s Partnership Forum, which is the group that makes decisions on these issues.
    On the Dockers issue, I’m disappointed that they are considering moving out of Fremantle and hope they ultimately see sense. If they do decide to go I think in the long term it will hurt them as a club more than it will hurt Fremantle as a city.
    Jon

  4. dianaryan says:

    A bureaucratic answer, Jon. I would caution against short-term decisions, based on prognostication.

    The Barnett Govt may or may not be in power by March next year, and may not be able to complete the transition to privatising community service provision (unlikely to be a huge money spinner, or able to keep up with demand anyway).

    Curtin Business School has advised against privatisation, for the reduction in range of services this can entail.

    If it is re-elected, the issue of community services allocations from within existing council budgets would be subject to merger arrangements anyway.

    Further, the Dept of Finance has admitted that a mechanism to determine if those monies were, in fact, going to employee wages, needed to be created. This was about a year later.

    As United Voice can tell you, the intent of the People’s Budget hasn’t turned out to be the case with all providers (a fear expressed by carers at Parliament House on the day of the People’s Budget, two years ago).

    To my knowledge, organisations such as Serco, with significant financial might, have yet to enter the community sector.

    At least one councillor, Rachel Pemberton, campaigned for Council based on the critical need of community service provision – and I recall the plea used, that of how women might be more sensitive to this area than men, and therefore should be represented in greater numbers on Council – upset, as it would, male candidates for the same ward.

    Fremantle is spending a lot of money striving to be a model of sustainability, and this would need to include fallback mechanisms to assist residents cope with the effects of structural change, the relentless push for productivity gains, an ageing population etc. This would go considerably beyond the hope for light rail, a wind farm, electric cars, etc.

    Peter Newman and Parsons Brinkerhoff, in their completed work for the City of Stirling on oil risk strategies, discussed the need for even greater roles for community services for the future.

    Perhaps this could breathe new life and purpose in to Fremantle’s ability to provide community services?

    Worth thinking about – prepared as it was by the Overlord of Sustainability himself.

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