Lobbyists shown the door

EVENT organisers would be banned from lobbying councillors for funding under a new draft sponsorship policy being considered by Perth council.

Applicants would also have to demonstrate their organisation’s “financial viability” to be eligible; that follows big-ticket recipient Perth Fashion Festival going into administration in November last year. 

The draft policy also “clarifies” the council won’t fund salaries and administrative overheads to keep organisations ticking along between events, a trend that started when it stopped funding Heritage Perth’s salaried executive. Those arrangements were rare but they’ve now made clear money is for events or projects only.

It’s part of an ongoing tightening of the funding purse since commissioners were appointed in 2018, starting with temporary freezes on business and heritage grants until they were satisfied the city’s accounts were healthy and the grants were good bang for ratepayer buck. 

The new policy against bugging councillors for money says “applicants may not lobby, or seek to influence the decision making” of councillors after submitting their funding application or they may be disqualified. They can’t even “provide additional information, either directly or indirectly”.

Stern ban

It’s a step softer than the stern ban originally suggested by council staff, which forbid “canvassing” councillors or providing them information at any point, not just post-submission.

Commissioner Len Kosova said last week while looking over the first draft that some further clarity was needed “so [applicants] don’t inadvertently overstep the mark”.

He wanted the rule clarified so organisers chatting to councillors in the early stages wouldn’t get eliminated without knowing they were doing anything wrong. 

Commissioners endorsed the draft on May 26 and it’ll go out for public comment for 21 days before it can be made official.

Cmmr Kosova said at the May 26 meeting: “I’d encourage all relevant community groups as well as prospective councillors who might be interested to review the policy… and provide any submissions they may wish to do on that, because it will specifically inform future decisions around sponsorship and grants by the city”.

The new rule is a far cry from the days of councillors and staff being showered with free tickets in return for sponsorship.

That longstanding practice ended in 2016 when some at the city grew nervous following the Public Sector Commission’s report into Healthway staff accepting freebies from sponsors.


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