The Great Newcastle Art Gallery Swindle

Thursday December 2013

“The people of Newcastle have been dudded by Council’s Art Gallery decision” Councillor Therese Doyle said today.

“The majority of councillors did not even hear a single report on the progress made by the Project Control Group they had voted to set up to bring Art Gallery development project costs back into line with Council’s previous projected estimates” Cr Doyle pointed out.

“Furthermore,” Cr Doyle pointed out, “there was no analysis performed by council officers as to how the revised and on-budget plans might be accommodated within Council’s current financial conditions.”

“If we are to be taken seriously in our management of Council finances and assets, we should not be reversing previous decisions to seriously commit Council to a course of action for the city’s renewal without very good reasons. We have not been given those reasons” she asserted.

“In rescinding all previous motions to proceed with the Art Gallery project, Newcastle City Council has acted irresponsibly towards its residents, particularly those who have worked tirelessly over many years towards bringing a renovated Art Gallery into being” Cr Doyle said. “Surely we could have paid those people the respect they deserve by at least hearing the results of the Project Control Group’s work and undertaking a study of how it might be paid for. The people of Newcastle have every right to feel aggrieved at this shoddy treatment,” she added.

“When Lord Mayor councillor Jeff McCloy asserted, earlier this year, that project management plans and unforeseen expenses had blown out the cost of the Art Gallery to an unacceptable level, council resolved to form a Project Control Group, including the Lord Mayor, three councillors, council officers and stakeholders, to bring the redevelopment costs into line with Council’s original budget.” Councillor Doyle pointed out.

“While the Project Control Group ensured that as many contingencies as possible were included in cost estimates, the architects came up with a new design for the gallery that includes most of the original inclusions and would do the city proud if it were ever built”

“Yet the Lord Mayor chose to stage a dramatic exit from the Control Group meeting on Monday 1 April, without even staying to hear the architect’s report on the project” Ms Doyle said.

“The city’s case for the redevelopment of the gallery was strong enough in 2012 for the federal government to grant $7 million and for the Independent Assessment and Review Tribunal (IPART) to grant special rate increases to help fund the project. What has so fundamentally changed that we no longer have an Art Gallery project for the near future?” Cr Doyle asked.

“What has changed in this Council is its commitment to serve its community while continuing to act in a financially responsible manner” Ms Doyle suggested. “It is certainly not financially responsible to turn our backs on the $7 million grant from the Federal Government,” she said. “And it is even less financially responsible to assume that we can simply thumb our noses at the previous commitment we made to IPART and the people of Newcastle to use the rate increase granted to pay for the gallery improvements”, Cr Doyle stated

“The majority of councillors have been spooked into abandoning Council’s major urban renewal project, without good reason.” Cr Doyle asserted.

For more information or comment, contact Therese Doyle on 0434 257 892 

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