City of Ballarat decline to detail expenses which led to 470 per cent blowout on Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre

The City of Ballarat is refusing to detail the expenses which led to the net cost of the Ballarat Aquatic and Leisure Centre ballooning 470 per cent over the 2015/16 financial year. 

The City of Ballarat Annual Report, which was presented at Wednesday night’s council meeting, showed $1.39 of every $100 of ratepayer money was spent on the BALC, up from 29 cents the previous year. 

At the meeting City of Ballarat director of business services Glenn Kallio said the blowout was caused by council having to foot the bill for a “number of substantial one-off expenses” after taking over the centre in September 2015. 

“There were a number of expenses incurred in order to bring the centre back up to standard,” he said at the meeting. 

However the council refused to disclose what those expenses were, citing “commercial-in-confidence”, despite the City of Ballarat having full control of the premises for more-than 12 months. 

“It follows a mutual agreement between the City of Ballarat and the Ballarat YMCA to change the working arrangements at the BALC, and this is commercial-in-confidence and unable to be detailed,” a statement from Mr Kallio said. 

The substantial increase in cost to the ratepayer came despite the fact patronage increased over the past 12 months at the Gilles Street North facility. 

The City of Ballarat came to mutual agreement to take control of the management of the facility from the YMCA last year, less-than three years into a decade-long, $5.8 million contract. 

At the time of the takeover, then-chief executive Anthony Schink said there would be no cost to council or ratepayers in the process of transferring the centre's management operations.

Despite saying the facility needed to be brought “up to standard”, Mr Kallio declined to comment on the condition of the BALC before the City of Ballarat takeover. 

Ballarat Residents and Ratepayers governance working group convener and former mayor John Barnes said the council had shown a lack of transparency with its handling of the aquatic centre. 

“Most of the councillors came in on a ticket of greater transparency and they’ve collectively failed,” Mr Barnes said. 

“The annual reports are excellent PR documents but they are spin and they don't provide transparency into the operations of council.”