Newcastle's independent councillors are exerting pressure on the council administration to make public the full costs of the organisation's move to Newcastle West.
Councillors will receive on Tuesday night a confidential report recommending a successful tenderer for the fit-out of the council's new offices in Stewart Avenue.
The moving costs have been the source of conjecture since councillors approved the shift in 2017 based on a business case which included a $7 million fit-out.
The price tag appears to have grown considerably based on public tender documents which show a "target trade budget" of $8.5 million for the fit-out.
This figure does not include construction management, project management, design consultants, engineers, internal staff costs, information technology, furniture, removalists and some of the cost of moving the council meeting chamber.
A City of Newcastle spokesperson said on Monday that it would make public the name of the successful tenderer for the fit-out and the contract value, which would include the cost of moving the council chamber.
Independents Kath Elliott, John Church, Allan Robinson and Andrea Rufo have lodged a notice of motion for Tuesday's meeting calling on the council to prepare an updated business case by next month detailing "all forecast revenue and expenditure associated with the move".
They want the new business case to be public and include the rent on the new office and the sale price for the City Administration Centre, which was to be retained and generate rental revenue under the original business case.
The council spokesperson told the Herald that the CAC had sold for $16.5 million.
City of Newcastle entered into a 15-year lease with the owners of the Gateway 2 building in 2017 without calling for tenders. It is understood it will pay about $2.4 million a year in rent.
The Office of Local Government said councils did not need to go out to tender for office leases, referring the Herald to a section of the Local Government Act covering contracts for "leasing or licensing of land".
The council spokesperson said the lease would remain confidential because the Act did not require disclosure of contracts which were not the result of a tender process.
"In 2017, council agreed to a request from the lessor that the terms of the lease be commercial in confidence," the spokesperson said. "This was seen as a reasonable request given the building has multiple tenants, each with a lease on different terms."
Cr Church said the council had entered into a commercial agreement at ratepayers' expense and had an "obligation under the Act to report the commercial terms of that agreement to the public".
Business group funding dispute
The heads of four Newcastle business improvement associations (BIAs) have questioned the legality of recommendations in a report on their future to go to Newcastle council on Tuesday.
Councillors will be asked to place on public exhibition a report by consultants AECOM proposing new financial arrangements for BIAs, which are funded by a levy on commercial ratepayers.
Under the changes, four BIAs would receive "up to" $100,000 a year, and the rest of the levy funds would be "made contestable" in each precinct for BIAs and other groups with ideas for events or improvements.
The $100,000 would represent a big cut in the annual budget of Newcastle Now, which operates in the CBD and accesses about $950,000 from levy funds.
BIA heads Edward Duc, Paul Newey, Ivor Davies and Nathan Errington have written to councillors questioning whether Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal rules allow the council to pool special rate funds across precincts, as Mayfield ($74,748) and New Lambton ($14,623) raise less than $100,000 from the levy.
The heads of all the BIAs, excluding Wallsend's, wrote to the Office of Local Government last month seeking an "urgent investigation" into how the council was managing the rate levy.
The AECOM review also recommends setting up a BIA at The Junction.