Mayors United on Funding Threat

ABC News

Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan says mayors will not support the process without more money.

“We are really gutted because we’ve been supportive of it … and now we get told, ‘Oh, we’re not going to fund the process’,” he said.

“If they want this process to happen, they’ve actually got to fund it.”

He said mayors were “very, very angry”.

“I’ve never seen mayors so united,” he said.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said the Government needed to commit to funding the full $60 million.

“I would think that the State Government would need to respond within four weeks with a full commitment to fund this process, otherwise it’s off the rail and the structural reform for the metropolitan area hits a roadblock,” he said.

The Local Government Advisory Board is considering submissions from both councils and the public for the proposed boundary changes and is expected to make a recommendation to the Government in June.

Mr Simpson said money was tight and there was little room to move.

“I’m always happy to go into the process of government, into Cabinet to see if I can get more money, but I did forewarn them that I need some hard figures on this reform process,” Mr Simpson said.

He said the full cost of the amalgamations would not be known until the advisory board’s report was released.

“Many people have bandied around figures for how much mergers will cost,” Mr Simpson said.

“Remember that savings will also be made and this process will result in better services for residents across the metropolitan area.”

The proposed amalgamations have proved a headache for the Government, sparking a backlash from Liberal MPs and forcing Premier Colin Barnett into a series of backdowns.

A plan to give the Government greater control over the advisory board was scrapped after opposition from the National Party, while internal Liberal dissent forced Mr Barnett to abandon a provision allowing residents to veto a merger of their councils.

Senior Liberals including South Perth MP John McGrath and South Metropolitan MPs Simon O’Brien and Nick Goiran have been openly critical of the amalgamations.

Mr McGrath accused the Government of using “trickery” and deliberately “misleading” constituents, while Mr O’Brien accused the Government of “peddling lies” over the amalgamations.

Vincent to go to Perth

ABC News – By Jessica Strutt

All of Vincent to be incorporated into Perth

In another blow to the City of Perth, its new boundaries will take in the whole of the City of Vincent.

That is a move Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and her council had long fought against, warning City of Perth residents and businesses would pay significantly higher rates if it went ahead.

Ms Scaffidi declined to comment on the recommendations.

The board has been considering the State Government’s plans to slash the number of metropolitan councils from 30 to 14.

This week it gave the first part of its report, covering 34 of 38 proposals for boundary changes, to Mr Simpson.

The board’s recommendations on the other proposals, which affect the local governments of Melville, Canning, Gosnells, Fremantle, East Fremantle, Kwinana and Cockburn, are expected to go to the Minister next week.

The board’s two reports will be considered by Cabinet before being released publicly.

Mr Simpson can only accept or reject the board’s recommendations but cannot amend them.

The new council boundaries are planned to take effect from July next year.

City of Perth and Burswood

ABC News – By Jessica Strutt

The City of Perth looks set to be the loser under final recommendations given to the WA Government on new council boundaries.

The ABC has confirmed the City of Perth will not get some of the key assets it has been lobbying for, including the lucrative Burswood peninsula where the casino is located and the new sports stadium is being built.

Both the State Government and the City of Perth had put forward proposals to significantly expand the capital city’s boundaries to include landmarks such as Kings Park, the University of Western Australia and most of the Burswood peninsula.

The board has, however, recommended to Local Government Minister Tony Simpson that the Burswood peninsula stay with an amalgamated City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park.

Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan said he felt hopeful they would get to keep Burswood.

“We feel like we put up a strong community effort to maintain the peninsula,” he said.

“[We feel] confident the board will follow its previous decisions that say the river is the natural boundary.”

But it is understood the Local Government Advisory Board has recommended UWA go within the new City of Nedlands boundaries.

At the moment the UWA campus is split between three separate local governments.

UWA vice chancellor Paul Johnson expressed concern about the proposal.

“If today’s media reports about local government reform are correct, they are concerning for the University of Western Australia,” he said.

“We believe placing the university into the City Of Perth is the best way to ensure the people of Western Australia can fully reap the benefits of having a world-class university.”

Legal Action Over Council Mergers

ABC News

Legal action against the WA Government’s plans to slash the number of local councils in the metropolitan area is expected to be officially launched in the Supreme Court today.

The ABC has confirmed the four parties to the legal action will be Vincent resident Ian Ker, the City of South Perth, the City of Subiaco and the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale.

Other councils will provide financial support for the action but will not be named as parties.

The lawyer acting for the group, John Hammond, said the action would be against Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson and members of the Local Government Advisory Board, which is currently considering the Government’s proposed boundary changes.

Mr Hammond said he was expecting to lodge papers in the Supreme Court tomorrow seeking a judicial review.

He said the basis for the action was the Government had not complied with the Local Government Act and therefore the process was invalid.

“The argument to the Supreme Court that the State Government and the Local Government Advisory Board have not complied with the Local Government Act is a strong argument,” Mr Hammond said.

The Local Government Advisory Board is expected to report to Mr Simpson this month on the proposed boundary changes.

The ABC understands the parties to the legal action may seek an injunction to stop that report being considered by the Minister, which could impact on the Government’s timeline for implementing the mergers of metropolitan councils.

Premier Colin Barnett has previously said he was confident there were no grounds for a legal challenge.

“I can’t see that a legal challenge would succeed but I just urge people in local government to look forward and not look back,” Mr Barnett said in March.

Perth mayors previously threatened to walk away from the process unless more money was found to fund it.

The state budget set aside $60 million for amalgamations – but $45 million of that is in the form of loans, which must be paid back with interest.