A NEW era of tightened purse strings has taken hold at Perth council.
The city’s commissioners have suspended all heritage and business grants until they get a complete picture of the city’s finances.
At Tuesday’s meeting they turned down a staff recommendation to spend $90,000 on six “business improvement grants” to upgrade venues in the city.
The Royal Hotel was to get $20,000 for renovation, Picabar was in line for a $20,000 refurbishment, Mustang Bar was looking at $15,000 for its facade and a new awning, and Bright Tank Brewery wanted $15,000 for a new outdoor dining area.
Universal Bar also wanted $10,000 for outdoor dining on William Street, and Lion Oriental Foods Co on Fitzgerald Street was hoping for $10,000 to renovate its old shopfront.
The fund is intended for projects that’ll have a wide benefit to the city but can’t get across the line without external funding, and city staff estimated the $90,000 would bootstrap about $1.7 million in private investment.
Cmm’r Andrew Hammond said he supported business grants, but was “unsure of the long-term financial position of the city”.
He said the city should continue to sponsor events “because they’re very very important to the vitality and activation of the city”.
In April commissioners deferred a $20,000 heritage grant to the owners of Barrack Street’s Bon Marche Arcade, and Comm’r Hammond was somewhat bemused to see it crop up again this week, given staff had been told to hold off until the grants had been reviewed.
“I’m not convinced it’s good public policy to invest ratepayers’ funds into privately owned properties,” Cmm’r Hammond said at the time.
It was a significant shift in tack from the previous elected councils which had steadily expanded the grants program since 2007.
by DAVID BELL