Bayswater split over budget

BAYSWATER council has been split near down the middle over a contentious budget, with the new mayoral regime blaming the old regime for a rough financial situation.

Rates will go up an average of 4.95 per cent, and to prevent them going any higher the council is putting a cap on new employees. It’s also cutting back on projects and immediately ceasing funding for free immunisation clinics set up to boost local vaccination rates.

Mayor Filomena Piffaretti, appointed by a majority of the new council line-up after the October 2021 elections, said at the July 18 budget meeting: “I’ve been charged with overseeing the preparation of this budget under less than ideal circumstances.

“The financial challenges we are currently facing are no secret,” Cr Piffaretti said, blaming “legacy issues”.

“I am mindful that cost of living pressures are causing financial distress for many as we face increases in the cost of food, petrol, utilities, rent and mortgages, and we are still recovering from the impact of Covid-19.”

The council’s also taking out loans to cover $7.1m needed to finish the Bayswater Waves upgrades and $7m to fund underground power in Maylands.

One ratepayer with some financial nous and experience as an accountant, Warren Lance, warned councillors against taking on debt.


“Is this council going to be the one that runs up debts of – round numbers – $20 million? And we’re supposed to pay for it?” Mr Lance queried. “I’m bitterly disappointed.”

Cr Elli Petersen-Pik was also concerned, saying the council should keep looking for external funding for Bayswater Waves.

“Without having a long-term financial plan that clearly shows that we can pay out this new loan, it is a risk that I am deeply concerned about,” he said.

“I want to remind councillors that we used to be, not long ago, a debt-free city. Look what is happening now.”

The budget just squeaked through with ‘yes’ votes from councillors Piffaretti, Catherine Ehrhardt, Josh Eveson, Assunta Meleca, Steven Ostaszewskyj and Michelle Sutherland. The five against were Cr Petersen-Pik, Dan Bull, Lorna Clarke, Giorgia Johnson and Sally Palmer.

Cr Johnson also tried to put up an amendment to keep the free immunisation clinic program, which costs about $120,000 a year to immunise 750 to 1000 infants, but it was lost with the same vote ratio. 

“It just leaves so many people vulnerable,” Cr Johnson said. 

“We have a lot of people in our community that are referred to these services; that’s a really important part of their public health, and it is going to reduce preventable disease in some of our most vulnerable communities.”

Council-funded immunisation clinics are more common in other states but only about four councils run them in WA. 

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