13 April 2021
MEETING AGENDA – PRECIS
The following reports appear as late items as information required for the preparation of the report/s was not available at the time of distribution of the Business Paper.
1 Mayoral Minutes
C0421(1) Item 44 Mayoral Minute: Inner West Economic Recovery Taskforce 3
C0421(1) Item 45 Mayoral Minute: More Facilities and Amenities at Rozelle Parklands 8
C0421(1) Item 46 Mayoral Minute: Parliamentary Report into Stronger Communities Tied Grants Round 11
13 April 2021
Subject: Mayoral Minute: Inner West Economic Recovery Taskforce
From: The Mayor, Councillor Darcy Byrne
1. Thanks the members of the Inner West Economic Recovery Taskforce, Percy Allan, Erica Berchtold, Greg Khoury, Chrissy Flanagan, Mark Chapman, Monica Vardabasso, Morris Hanna and Kerrie Glasscock, for volunteering their time and expertise;
2. Notes the
recommendations of the Inner West Economic Recovery Taskforce (See Attachment
3. Refers the
taskforce report to Council Officers to seek their advice on each
recommendation, which is to be tabled at the June Ordinary meeting;
4. Officers meet with
taskforce members to discuss the recommendations; and
5. Endorses the following recommendations for immediate implementation with an update to be provided in the report to the June Ordinary meeting:
a) Undertakes an external review of its borrowing capabilities to identify its capacity to invest additional capital in reducing/eliminating the infrastructure backlog;
b) Seeks advice and cooperation from rating agencies and the NSW Government’s TCorp in assessing Council’s borrowing capacity and review whether there are other mechanisms Council can use to raise capital to invest in infrastructure renewal;
c) Identifies the proportion of Council’s procurement currently undertaken through suppliers within the Inner West Local Government Area (LGA) and makes it a priority to increase local procurement in future budgets;
d) Proposes to the NSW and Federal Governments that they establish a one-stop shop application process for all three tiers of government for approvals to open a brewery/distillery, and that the Inner West would host a pilot of the scheme;
e) Develops an Inner West public space activation strategy to be rolled out in line with the lifting of public health restrictions with the specific goal of attracting and encouraging high levels of pedestrian traffic, economic activity and social interaction in the public domain.
Economic Recovery Recommendations
13 April 2021
Subject: Mayoral Minute: More Facilities and Amenities at Rozelle Parklands
From: The Mayor, Councillor Darcy Byrne
1. Notes the excellent and detailed submissions from local sports clubs regarding Rozelle Parklands;
2. Supports the calls from local clubs for additional sporting facilities and public amenities within Rozelle Parklands and calls on the NSW Government to amend the Rozelle Parkland’s Urban Design and Landscape Plan (UDLP) to incorporate:
· Additional multipurpose sporting fields, which include synthetic surfaces
· Accessible toilet and changerooms for males and females
· Canteen facilities
· Separate medical and referee/officials’ rooms
· Administration rooms
· Seating for spectators, parents and volunteers
· Lighting to Australian Standards to allow for night-time sporting usage
· An eight-lane athletics track incorporated into a sporting field
· Long-jump pits and shot put, discus, hammer, and javelin areas
· Hockey pitches
· On-site car parking and drop-off zones
· Access to public transport
3. Calls on the NSW Government to ensure that passive recreation and active transport are fully integrated with sporting facilities across of the 10-hectare site to allow maximum usage of Rozelle Parklands by the whole community;
4. Informs the Rozelle Parklands Working Group as well as relevant Ministers, of its position that the UDLP should be expanded to incorporate the additional sporting facilities requested by local sporting clubs, and requests it tables this motion for consideration at next working group meeting; and
5. Convenes a meeting of all local sporting clubs who have made submission to discuss how we can advocate for their proposals.
In August 2020, the NSW Government release the Urban Design and Landscape Plan for the Rozelle Parklands project. Prior to the release of the plans I met with Elizabeth Mildwater, then Deputy Secretary of Transport for New South Wales, and communicated that the Government must make funding available for the facilities and amenities within the park so that our community was not left with a grassed over concrete slab instead of the modern public park which had been promised.
After my representations, I received correspondence from Ms Mildwater, indicating that the Government would fund the construction of sporting facilities and amenities within Rozelle Parklands.
Following the announcement that Elizabeth Mildwater was moving to the Greater Sydney Commission, I requested that the Acting General Manager write to the Secretary of Transport for New South Wales seeking written confirmation about the amount of the capital contribution from the Government.
In December 2020, Council received a response that the Government would make $15 million available for the Rozelle Parklands project (See Attachment 1).
The Government has initiated a working group to consult with the community about the plans for Rozelle Parklands. Multiple local sport clubs have made detailed submissions requesting additional sporting facilities than those exhibited in the current plan.
Clubs that have made a submission include: Balmain & District Football Club; Balmain Little Athletics; Glebe Hockey; Balmain Australian Football Club; Sydney Cricket Club; Glebe Greyhounds; Leichhardt Cygnets and Leichhardt Saints. Please find attached a copy of each of their submissions.
Additional facilities proposed in the submissions include changing rooms, lighting, additional sporting fields (including fields with all-weather surfaces), an athletics track, multipurpose courts and parking.
Councillors were also informed that a report on local sporting clubs submissions was to be tabled at the Ordinary Council meeting in March. This did not occur.
The Government has indicated previously that they would be adopting finalised plans for the parklands by mid-2021, leaving local clubs and Council with little time left to advocate for additional facilities to be included in the final plans, which is the reason for my bringing these submissions to the urgent attention of Councillors.
Rozelle Parklands represents is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for multipurpose, multi-code sporting and recreation precinct that will benefit all local sporting clubs and codes as well as a green space connecting Rozelle and Lilyfield with Annandale and Leichhardt.
Correspondence from TfNSW to Inner West Council regarding Rozelle Parklands
13 April 2021
Subject: Mayoral Minute: Parliamentary Report into Stronger Communities Tied Grants Round
From: The Mayor, Councillor Darcy Byrne
1. Notes the findings of the First Report from the Inquiry by the NSW Parliament’s Public Accountability Committee into Integrity, efficacy and value for money of NSW Government grant programs (attachment 1)
2. Endorses the comments of Mr David Shoebridge MLC, contained in the Chair’s foreword to the report regarding the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round:
“The Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round was an alarming example of the lack of transparency and accountability in NSW Government grant programs. The fund was originally established to assist councils created from the NSW Government's failed council amalgamations, but morphed into a brazen pork-barrel scheme. Ultimately the Coalition designed a scheme with so few checks and balances that $252 million of public money was handed out on a purely political basis to sort out the Coalition’s political problems, to gain an advantage in the 2019 state election and to punish any council that had objected to being forcibly merged.”
3. Notes the full list of recommendations in the committee’s report (attachment 2)
4. Write to all NSW Members of Parliament calling on them to implement the Inquiry’s recommendations including:
a) Recommendation 5 - That the NSW Government ensure all grant programs have, as an absolute minimum, the following legally binding and mandatory elements:
· a designated decision-maker
· eligibility criteria
· a process for identifying and assessing proposed projects against those criteria
· program guidelines that are clear, detailed and publicly available.
b) Recommendation 7 - That the Legislative Council refer its concerns regarding the inappropriate design and maladministration of the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round to the Audit Office of NSW, along with this report and committee transcripts of evidence for investigation.
8 - That the Legislative Council refer its concerns regarding the
inappropriate design and maladministration of the Stronger Communities Fund
tied grants round to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, along
with this report and committee transcripts of evidence for investigation.
d) Recommendation 9 - That the Legislative Council send a message to the Legislative Assembly to establish a Joint Select Committee to inquire into and report on the NSW budget process and parliamentary oversight.
5. Writes to the NSW Premier, Treasurer and Local Government Minister demanding that that an additional round of grant funding for community infrastructure funding be opened by the government for Councils such as the Inner West that were improperly prevented from accessing the Stronger Communities Fund – Tied Grants program;
6. Commit to ongoing advocacy through all of Council’s communications channels to inform our community about the findings and recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry;
7. Thank the members of the Committee for their diligence in uncovering the full scope of the pork barrelling that occurred throughout the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round; and
8. Prepare a list of priority infrastructure projects, across all five wards of Inner West Council, which could be funded were the NSW Government to make an additional round of funding available to councils that were prevented from applying for the tied grants round, noting that the Inner West would have received $24 million if the funds had been distributed fairly on a per capita basis to amalgamated Councils.
The First Report from the Inquiry by the NSW Parliament’s Public Accountability Committee into Integrity, efficacy and value for money of NSW Government grant programs was tabled with the Clerk of the Parliaments on 30 March 2021.
The Inquiry’s investigations focused on the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round and uncovered a number of shocking and damning findings including:
- Finding 1
That the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round was a clear abuse of the grants process. It was an improper allocation of public money and falls well short of principles of proper grants administration and public expectations.
- Finding 2
That, of the $252 million allocated in the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round, 95 per cent, which is a total of $241 million, was allocated to councils in Coalition-held or marginal electorates.
- Finding 3
That the grant of $90 million to Hornsby Shire Council went against the original intent of the Stronger Communities Fund, was made without any due process or merit assessment, and was a misuse of public money by the NSW Government for a political purpose unrelated to the objects of the grants scheme.
- Finding 4
That the revised guidelines for the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round were ambiguous and did not identify with enough specificity the designated decision-maker or how projects would be identified or approved.
- Finding 5
That the guidelines for the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round were deliberately devised to accommodate the pork-barrelling scheme in order to:
· partially resolve certain legal disputes involving Hornsby Shire Council and Parramatta City Council
· win favour with the public in Coalition and marginal seats ahead of the 2019 state election
· punish local councils that had objected to forced amalgamation proposals.
In November 2020, the NSW Premier admitted publicly that the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round involved pork barrelling, stating;
“Governments in all positions make commitments to the community in order to curry favour. I think that's part of the political process whether we like it or not.
The term pork barrelling is common parlance ... and it's not something that I know that the community is comfortable with and if that's the accusation made on this occasion ... well then I'm happy to accept that commentary.
If the accusation is that the government favoured certain areas, well that's an accusation we wear."
In giving evidence to the Inquiry, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro also confirmed pork barrelling had occurred, stating: “What we call pork-barrelling is investment. In one way, when you think about it, at every single election that every party goes to we make commitments. You want to call that pork-barrelling, you want to call that buying votes, that it what the elections are for.”
While the Inquiry was being held, former NSW auditor-general Tony Harris publicly called for the resignation of the Premier following revelations her office had shredded working advice notes regarding the Stronger Communities Fund tied grants round, stating: "I allege that the shredding those documents is unlawful, and so when you package everything up together, it's time for her to go," he said.
The unlawfulness of this action was later confirmed by the NSW State Archives and Records Authority on 22 January 2021.
The Inquiry also received submissions and testimony from The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The report’s summary of these contributions include;
2.2 The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) noted that generally, public money should be spent according to the 'three Es' of public sector administration and decision-making – efficiently, effectively and economically. The Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines has introduced a fourth concept – that money must be managed ethically - and ICAC noted its support for ethics being included as a foundational organising principle of grants administration.
2.5 ICAC noted that principles of transparency, accountability and fairness should be observed in all grant programs as they all involve public money or asset.
2.43 ICAC also submitted that the following situations could give rise to a serious breach of public trust in the administration of grant programs, depending on the specific circumstances:
· designing eligibility and selection criteria to favour a particular applicant at the expense of the public interest
· intentionally misapplying nominated selection criteria, or directing a public servant to do so
· encouraging a public official to create false or incomplete records or to conceal the involvement of an elected official, or any other wilful suppression of grants scheme information
· directing or urging a public servant to make a decision preferred by the Minister if the Minister is not the appointed decision-maker
· deliberately failing to act on a reasonable suspicion of fraud, misappropriation or misuse of grant funds
· any action that leads to an unsuccessful applicant receiving false information about why it was unsuccessful.
2.44 Mr Hall stated that ministerial discretion may not be exercised to 'negate or rewrite the terms and/or the operation' of an established grants scheme.70 If a grant program is designed so that proposed projects are assessed according to specified eligibility and selection criteria, a minister may not permissibly approve grants that do not meet the required criteria.71 Similarly, ministerial intervention 'to skew or alter a result that has gone through a prescribed selection process', if it is done to enhance the prospects of electoral success, may be an illegitimate use of power.
2.45 In this context, Mr Hall said that 'pork-barrelling' may constitute corrupt conduct where a minister overrides an established grant program decision-making process to gain an electoral advantage. He stated (emphasis added): Whilst every case necessarily turns on its own factual circumstances, if a minister intervenes and overrides a government grant program or scheme, including in particular in relation to the decision-making processes by which successful applicants are determined, and intentionally does so for the purposes of possible electoral advantage, such intervention could constitute corrupt conduct under the provisions of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.