Maribyrnong City Council spends nearly one million dollars on a major projects team that doesn’t appear on any of the paperwork or committees related to Council’s major projects.
According to the FY 21 Budget papers, the 19 major initiatives include:
· Town Hall renovation
· NeXT hub
· RecWest Footscray redevelopment
· Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre redesign
· Highpoint Activity Centre infrastructure plan
· Proposed indoor stadium facility design
But none of the Officer reports to Council on any of these projects have ever been authored by the Major Projects team, nor mention any significant contribution by the team.
Meanwhile Council CEO Stephen Wall sits on two joint Council committees called LeadWest and WoMEDA.
LeadWest comprises representatives from Hobsons Bay, Brimbank and a few other Councils and aims to rejuvenate economic activity in the western suburbs. LeadWest has a full time staffer and each member council pays about $40,000 to belong. LeadWest has just completed a video to showcase western suburbs to federal MPs because a planned bus tour had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.
LeadWest is also writing a new Memorandum of Understanding with WoMEDA.
WoMEDA stands for West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance. Its members include Victoria University and some retired MPs who comprise a mega-lobbying unit that will draft a 10-20 year investment plan for the West to help pitch for federal government funding. So far it’s hired a consultant.
(The existence and cost of these committees conveniently ignore the fact there are more than half a dozen federal MPs representing our suburbs who SHOULD include lobbying for funding as part of their normal day job.)
Neither LeadWest nor WoMEDA record any involvement from the Maribyrnong Council Major Projects Unit.
This is the Budget description of the Major Projects Team.
“The Major Projects & Strategic Relationships service provides high-level professional advice and direction relating to the implementation of Council's major projects”
To whom? Not Council. Not LeadWest. Not WoMEDA.
According to the current Budget (FY21) Major Projects costs $709,000 in staff costs plus another $281,000 in materials.
That’s a lot of money for a mystery team.
I suspected Major Projects was merely funding for lobbyists, so I asked when Council was preparing the Budget.
This is the official Council response:
“The Major Projects and Strategic Relationship service involves Council representing the interests of the community on State and Federal Government projects such as the West Gate Tunnel Project, Melbourne Metro and Defence Site Maribyrnong redevelopment project. This involves facilitating Council comments on these projects, liaison with State led project partners and stakeholders to negotiate best outcomes for the City of Maribyrnong.”
Given Maribyrnong Council has a $300,000 CEO and a Director of Planning and a Director of Infrastructure, why do ratepayers have to fund an extra $700,000 for a special team to protect residents’ interests on these projects.
Under normal economic conditions, it's wasteful to spend nearly one million dollars of ratepayer revenue on an extra level of leadership that appears to have no defined role nor accountability.
With jobs lost due to Covid and a national economic crisis, Major Projects is a now a major insult.