Lobbyist hired for council cash dash

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A COLLINS St lobbying firm was hired by Frankston Council to push for state and federal funding for the region in the lead up to 2010 state election and 2016 federal election.

The hiring of a lobbyist came to light at last month’s public council meeting as councillors agreed to establish a committee of councillors and council officers to begin planning a similar campaign to hit up politicians for cash ahead of the 2018 state election.

Cr Kris Bolam welcomed the formation of a committee of councillors — one from each of Frankston’s three electoral ward — to look at projects that could benefit from state funding but noted councillors were not solely responsible for convincing Liberal and Labor politicians to invest in Frankston.

“We did put up a lot of money for a lobbyist to do a lot of that work on our behalf as well so it was a multi-faceted approach,” Cr Bolam said at the meeting.

When asked by The Times, Frankston mayor Cr Brian Cunial confirmed Melbourne based CPR Communications and Public Relations was paid $108,972 to provide “advocacy support” during council campaigns aimed at letting the major political parties know Frankston deserved its fair share of funding for major projects.

Cr Cunial noted more than $200 million of state and federal funding had been committed to the Frankston area since 2010 and cited the Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC), Chisholm TAFE redevelopment and Frankston train station precinct upgrade as examples of lobbying paying off for Frankston.

“Without council’s strong advocacy work to both state and federal candidates at each election, the Frankston community may not have received the extraordinary amount of funding that has been committed and delivered to Frankston, particularly within the past seven years,” Cr Cunial said.

“Frankston City Council continues to have a strong focus on advocating to other levels of government to support activities that are beneficial to the Frankston community.”

CPR Communications said it was appointed to work on the pre-election campaigns by council after a tender process.

“Elections are a critical opportunity for local councils to secure major state and federal funding for their community priorities,” CPR managing director Michelle Edmunds said.

“Election funding outcomes underpin community development and infrastructure planning for many years to come. It’s a highly competitive environment, with every council seeking funding commitments.

“Council teams work intensively on these projects to give their communities the best chance of success, and that often includes using a mix of internal experts with local knowledge and external experts with broader advocacy campaign expertise.”

Cr Cunial said council’s in-house staff worked on the 2014 state election lobbying campaign called ‘Speak Up For Frankston’.

He said “advocacy engagement with an external organisation” is not separately listed in council’s annual report or budget.

First published in the Frankston Times – 13 March 2017

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