WA mayors react angrily to limited funds for forced council mergers
By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 7:02pmWed 29 Oct 2014, 7:02pm
Councils say rates will inevitably rise after the West Australia Government confirmed it will only offer up to $15 million in grants and $45 million in loans for local government mergers.
The comments come as the Government plans to cut the number of metropolitan councils from 30 to 16.
Many mayors and the WA Local Government Association say the limited funds means ratepayers will now be forced to foot the bill and they are predicting rates will rise, especially in the short term.
Mayors were briefed last week on what new local council boundaries will look like under the changes and today the Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson met with them again to talk about the process and how it would be funded.
At the meeting Mr Simpson confirmed the figures.
The only new aspect was that the money would be made available sooner and repayable over a longer period.
I have no doubt in the short-term that rates will need to be increased to help fund the cost of amalgamations.
WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said the decision meant local governments would bear the majority of the cost of the State Government’s reform agenda.
“Given the Premier committed to fully fund the reform process in July last year we are disappointed that the State Government chose not to increase their initial offer of $15 million in grants and $45 million in loans,” he said.
“Unfortunately it will be the State Government who should be to blame for the increase cost that will appear on rate notices in future years.
“I have no doubt in the short term that rates will need to be increased to help fund the cost of amalgamations.”
City of Stirling Mayor Giovanni Italiano said he was very disappointed about the lack of funding and labelled the whole process a farce.
“I really think the State Government should put their money where their mouth is and pay up because why should my ratepayers pay for this amalgamation or in our [case] decimation,” he said.
Bassendean Mayor John Gangell predicted the cost to ratepayers from the Government’s local government reform would be astronomical.
“Expect rates to go up and up and up and up,” he said.
‘Bitterly disappointed’, says mayor
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams described the funding being made available by the Government as woefully inadequate.
“The ratepayers and the new ratepayers of the City of Jervoise Bay will have to pay for this amalgamation,” she said.
“I think we are all bitterly disappointed, we went into the meeting with an air of expectation which now no longer exists.”
Mr Simpson said creating larger local governments was the best way to put downward pressure on rates.
“We don’t actually know the total cost of the reform process, each one is an individual case and is different to each other,” he said.
Because of the mechanisms being used to achieve the Government’s plans, only residents in six council areas will have the option of a vote before merging.
Under the Government’s plan to join the City of Belmont and the Shire of Kalamunda through a boundary adjustment, their residents are not entitled to a poll to allow them a say on the merger.
Kalamunda MP John Day, who is a senior Cabinet Minister, has previously said he shares the Shire of Kalamunda’s concerns about that process and vowed to work with them to get a fair and equitable deal.
At today’s meeting the Shire of Kalamunda president Sue Bilich presented Mr Simpson with the signatures of more than 300 residents requesting that they be given access to a poll.
But Mr Simpson immediately ruled that out, saying while he understood their concerns, they would not be given a poll.
“The only poll that is allowed to happen under the [Local Government] Act is under an amalgamation,” he said.
“That’s the only poll that is actually binding.
“Any other poll that you call isn’t binding so it would be going through a process for no outcome.”
Topics: local-government, perth-6000
More stories from Western Australia