Council pulls funding for Wollongong cultural plan

Wollongong Town Hall. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Wollongong Town Hall. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Sticking to the rules won out over taking creative risks at Wollongong City Council on Monday night, as councillors voted to wind back their decision to fund the city's new cultural plan.

A motion to adopt the plan - which includes live music, evening economy and general cultural strategies for the city - and allocate $170,000 to its implementation by seeking cultural grants and commissions, was passed 6-5 by councillors on May 12.

The motion also called for a community working group to help establish an arts hub in the lower town hall.

However, a number of councillors said they were uncomfortable with "budgeting on the run", so decided to raise a rescission motion to remove any reference to funding any new projects.

Councillors Janice Kershaw, Chris Connor, David Brown, Gordon Bradbery, George Takacs, Leigh Colacino and Bede Crasnich supported the rescission on Monday night, while councillors Ann Martin, Michelle Blicavs, Jill Merrin and Greg Petty voted against.

Cr Ann Martin says she'll continue to seek further funding for the cultural plan.

Cr Ann Martin says she'll continue to seek further funding for the cultural plan.

Those in favour of rescinding the budget were at pains to point out their strong support for the cultural plan, but said they did not support ad hoc budgeting on the council floor.

Cr Kershaw labelled the original motion as "budget allocation and projects on the run", and said setting up a working group to explore uses for the town hall would raise community expectations before the project could be signed off by the council.

Likewise, Cr Brown said he was concerned the May 12 motion involved "tacking on some individual spending items" to a broad policy document.

"I don't support this method because it's a great way to blow a budget," he said. "When we have plans like this that seek out broad objectives, particular strategies and individual action items, staff then go off and work out ways to design and deliver on those plans ... and then they program them into the annual budget."

Cr Martin, who moved the original motion, said she was "a bit of a risk taker" and disappointed to see references to funding removed, but said she would continue to fight for further funding for the cultural plan.

Cr Blicavs also spoke against the rescission, saying the council should think "out of the box" and change some entrenched processes. "[The original motion] was a very low risk option for us, of attempting or trying an approach that was a little bit different, and what better way to do that than attach it to the cultural plan."

A new motion, adopting the cultural plan and asking council officers to investigate the best use for the lower town hall, was passed unanimously after a debate.