Bondi View

Mayoral election: All Betts are off

Waverley Mayor Sally Betts has identified financial accountability and leadership as crucial ingredients in ensuring future stability ahead of Thursday’s mayoral election.

A Council member for the last 18 years, Ms Betts said two key objectives had shaped her political career: passion and prudence.

“Leadership is about everyone knowing the direction that Council is going in,” she said. “The first thing you have to do is get your finances in order …  I wanted staff costs to be controlled and really look at savings so I’m really pleased that [we’ve] done it.”

By prioritising budgetary discipline, Ms Betts said Council was now on a sound financial footing.

“We will have a surplus again this year which is excellent,” she said. “Prudent financial management is absolutely [crucial] – you can’t do anything if you’re running deficits.”

But former Mayor John Wakefield, a Labor Councillor for Bondi Ward, questioned the financial experience of Ms Betts.

“She doesn’t have her hand on the pillar of Council,” he said. “She’s allowing officers to run Council, [without] questioning their logic.”

“The role of a mayor is about being a leader [and] making sure the senior officers, in particular, are putting in place the programs and the policies the community wants.”

Mr Wakefield criticised the Liberals for what he perceives as a reduction in the local democratic process, especially surrounding development applications. He said the establishment of the Waverley Development Assessment Panel meant there would be minimal “interference” and “involvement” from councillors in the discussion surrounding local development applications.

“That quantifiable, measurable difference between Labor and Liberal lies in who wants to see a change occur versus another side of politics who wants to sit back, who are happy to make [concessions],” he said. “That’s not leadership and it’s not vision.”

Ahead of Thursday’s election, Mr Wakefield said his vision is to help create the foundations of a modal shift in transport, with more people on public transport and traversing the area.

In his seven years on the Waverley Traffic Committee, Mr Wakefield said the transformation of Rowe St, Bondi Junction and the establishment of a direct passageway between Oxford St Mall and the Bus Rail Interchange for pedestrians was crucial. He said that despite receiving unanimous support, the initiative had not progressed under the Liberals’ tenure over the last year.

Ms Betts countered, saying Labor favoured a “stick over a carrot approach” to negotiating improvements to public transport and consequently their ‘modal shift’ policy was “a complete failure”.

“What we need to do is improve public transport, which Labor never did … they didn’t even try to improve it. The result is we have more cars in Waverley than we ever had before,” she said.

“The Liberals believe we should improve public transport but allow people to have cars so we have changed the policy to allow more off-street parking and we are working incredibly hard to introduce light rail and improve public transport.”

The majority of Waverley councillors are Liberals, comprising seven of the 12 councillors.

The mayoral election will take place at 7pm on Thursday at Council chambers.

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