PERTH COUNCIL was divided last night over the City’s sponsorship of the Perth Fashion Festival.
City officers recommended council give the Festival $240,000 in cash and $29,315.91 worth of in-kind support, a big reduction on recent funding, in a move endorsed by the City’s Marketing and Sponsorship Committee.
At Council, however, Councillor Janet Davidson moved an alternative motion to boost the cash sponsorship to $270,000, taking the total value of the deal to almost $300,000, only slightly less than recent levels.
Deputy Mayor James Limnios expressed disbelief at the move.
“From 1999 to 2006 the City gave an average of $47,800 a year to the Fashion Festival… from 2007 to 2015 the average spend has been $276,447 per year,” he said.
“Melbourne Council gives their fashion festival $100,000, Sydney Council gives $100,000.”
Cr Reece Harley also spoke against the increase, pointing out the City gave much less support to a number of events that returned a far greater economic benefit to Perth.
In the past three years, the City has given $295,000, $303,000 and $303,000 in cash to the Festival, in addition to $10,000 each year to the WA Fashion Awards.
This year the Festival requested $330,000 cash and $29,315.91 in in-kind support.
Cr Limnios asked for an explanation of part of the deal, described as “an opportunity for the City of Perth to access Telstra Perth Fashion Festival celebrities and VIPs” and was told by acting director of economic development and activation Annaliese Battista that it meant the City could “leverage” relationships in the pursuit of promotional work.
The Deputy Lord Mayor also raised concerns about 350 tickets beings assigned to so-called VIPs, and the remaining tickets being sold at prices ranging up to $170.
He praised City staff who produced the report for casting new light on the event.
“This Festival used to be an association; now it is a publicly listed company. We support Fringe World with $75,000 and it returns $60.7 million in business,” he said.
“PIAF is a 25-day event, generating $57 million for the city. The Fashion Festival goes for six days… and generates $7.26 million for local business.”
Cr Limnios added Telstra had naming rights to the Festival despite contributing less sponsorship, but could not mention the figure because it was in a confidential document.
Cr Judy McEvoy supported the Festival’s funding boost on the grounds that with the event due to start on September 20, there was no time for the organisers to plan around the reduced funding, some $70,000 less cash than requested.
Cr McEvoy added funding should be reconsidered in the future and more notice given to the organisers of any major change.
Cr Jim Adamos supported Cr Davidson’s motion, saying the Festival brought international exposure to the city.
Cr Adamos said had the report been brought before council earlier, “maybe it would have been a different story… but the Festival is about to start”.
Cr Harley asked for an explanation of why the report had only come to the sponsorship committee in late July and Council in early August and was told the matter had gone to the office of the Minister for Local Government “some months ago” because staff believed a Ministerial exemption was needed.
Consternation arose when Cr Lily Chen referred to discussing the matter with a “very good friend” involved in the Festival.
Cr Chen said given she was voting against the motion to increase funding there was no conflict, before specifying that she was referring to a “working relationship” with a “stakeholder”.
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi spoke in favour of the funding boost, noting the Melbourne and Sydney festivals got more corporate sponsorship than Perth and as such were less reliant on council support.
“We talk about diversifying the industries in Perth… We need to develop our creative industries,” she said.
“This is about retail promotion as much as it is about fashion.”
The Lord Mayor said the Festival brought a great deal of flow-on economic benefits in the months after the event itself.
Cr Davidson’s motion to increase the cash sponsorship to $270,000 was passed with the Lord Mayor, Cr Davidson, Cr Adamos and Cr McEvoy voting for it, and councillors Limnios, Harley and Chen against.