South Perth Candidates go for broke

stock image.
stock image.

SOUTH Perth’s mayoral election has ramped up with tit-for-tat claims about the health of the City’s finances.

Mayor Sue Doherty has hit back at claims the City’s finances are in freefall, reassuring ratepayers that its position is sustainable.

An advertisement in the Southern Gazette last week claimed the City’s financial health had declined rapidly in the past four years.

Authorised by two Mill Point ward businessmen, including Windsor Hotel owner Geoff Ogden, on behalf of candidate Greg Milner, the advertisement suggested the City of South Perth was “going broke”.

“As mayor, I want to reassure all residents and ratepayers the City of South Perth is financially sustainable and our position continues to strengthen,” Ms Doherty said.

However, just two days later an article in Saturday’s West Australian further fuelled the rumours of financial stress, reporting the City of South Perth’s financial health indicator (FHI) had dropped from 97 in 2014-15 to 51 in 2017-18.

South Perth mayoral candidate Greg Milner said the score out of 100 was a measurement of a local government’s overall financial health and a score of 70 and above indicated a sound financial position.

“In 2017-18, the only other West Australian local governments with the status of City to have a lower FHI than the City of South Perth were Fremantle (44) and Nedlands (50),’’ he said.

Former City of South Perth financial manager Andre Brandis, who is running for council, said there was a lot of truth in the West article.

“The City’s financial health has declined significantly over the past four years and cash reserves continue to decline,’’ he said.

“As of June 2019, the City of South Perth had $7.9 million in borrowings ($2.7m for Collier Park Golf Course and $5.2m for municipal works).”

He is concerned the recreational and aquatic facility currently undergoing feasibility studies, if approved, may result in further capital borrowings.

“Building costs for the 2017-18 financial year increased by about $15m,’’ he said.

Ms Doherty said the City recognised its need to increase the FHI and she was focused on achieving a balance between effective spending to develop community assets while keeping household costs down.

She said key projects such as the $15m Manning Community Hub, $11m Ernest Johnson Reserve redevelopment and $7.5m Connect South project to upgrade the South Perth foreshore offered significant public benefits.

She was optimistic this year’s FHI would be 62 but it will not be known until next year.