Now that the tender for the construction of the new indoor Swim Centre at the Manly Boy Charlton Pool has been awarded, a number of Councillors are raising concerns about the price tag for the facility, which is already 22% over budget.
According to Clr Candy Bingham, the budgeted allowance for the indoor facility is $15.5m (Long Term Financial Plan 2013/14). However the cost, including architect fees, is now closer to $19m.
In her Mayoral Column on 25/11/14 in the Manly Daily, Clr Jean Hay assured Manly ratepayers "there is no cost blow-outs ... the approved tender has three separate components: the new indoor swim centre, the improved amenities for the LM Graham Reserve and the new 'co-generation energy plant' " however, this statement is misleading as the items quoted were tendered separately, and listed separately, in the Long Term Financial Plan. The additional items account for another $2.8m, on top of the $19m for the indoor swim centre.
It all started when Clr Barbara Aird broke the story to the Manly Daily prior to the October Council meeting on 13th. This was met with a furious attack by the Mayor claiming Councillor Aird had breached the Code of Conduct by revealing 'confidential information' as the tenderer had not been finalised. In publicity and offensively attacking Clr Aird the Mayor breached the Code herself, but seemed completely oblivious to the fact as she demanded that all councillors attend a refresher workshop on the Code of Conduct.
It has subsequently been revealed that Clr Aird did not break the Code, supported by the fact that the winning tenderer publicity notified neighbours days later saying they were the new contractor for the facility; and Regulation 269 of the Local Government Act that clearly states that the contract price was a matter of public knowledge once the winning tenderer had been selected.
There is no argument that Manly will benefit from this new indoor facility and that Council, in being successful in gaining a 10 year fixed interest loan at a subsidised rate, has obtained a good deal. What concerns ratepayers, and many Councillors, is the continued lack of transparency and secrecy around all major projects undertaken by this Council.
Given the project is already 22% over budget, isn't now the time to reassess the facilities being offered to see where reasonable cost cutting can be made?
What do you think?
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.