From “The Maxwell Fish & Chip Wrapper” January 2015 Written by Victoria Park Councillor Vince Maxwell

This is a rare and unusual event and it was only through the hard work by a few residents of the Town that has made it possible for you to have a say. The outcome of this poll is binding on the State Government under the Local Government Act. Many people who live in the Town have migrated from countries where democracy either doesn’t exist or is abused by those in power. Democracy is a fragile thing and needs to be protected. This has been demonstrated in the past where our predecessors were prepared to fight and some gave their lives to ensure we have the freedom we enjoy today – We cannot take it for granted – let our governments at all levels know that we want to maintain our democratic rights by participating in this poll. Politics is the science of living together – although some let the power and responsibility go to their heads, it is no reason for us to sit idly by. We must ensure that our democracy remains strong and not allow any one person on a power trip take it away from us. The ballot package that you have received from the Australian Electoral Commission contains an information sheet that lists the for and against arguments for an amalgamation. This information was provided by the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB). Unfortunately the arguments put forward are very simplistic opinions that are not supported by evidence.

One argument is that the Town will be more sustainable – however the WA treasuries modelling that was used by the LGAB demonstrates the opposite. The Treasuries own figures show that the Towns current rating of 70, which incidentally is the Ministers preferred minimum level, will drop to 68 upon amalgamation with South Perth. In the future a modest improvement is shown but, like forecasting the weather, the further into the future you look the less accurate the prediction. Conclusion: this claim is unsubstantiated.

Another argument is that a larger local government can employ more expensive staff but is that what we need? The CEO of Victoria Park already earns in excess of $240,000 and senior staff receive over $170,000. Larger Councils automatically pay these staff at a higher rate as this is determined by the State salaries and remuneration tribunal – it is not a free market. The pay scales are set and there is minimal range within each band to pay someone more or less to match their capability. The range is determined by the size of the Local Government. For example larger Councils like Canning and Wanneroo have almost twice as many senior staff and the total Senior staff wages bill is almost double indicating that little will be saved by forming a larger Council. No cost benefit analysis has been done by the State Government or the Town. We are sailing into unknown territory.

Professor of economics and Director of the UNE Centre for Local Government, Brian Dollery, in correspondence with me stated that he agreed with my calculation of the likely costs and concluded by writing “It seems to me that many Perth councils are sleepwalking towards big financial problems stemming from amalgamation.” Former secretary to the NSW Treasury, Professor Percy Allan (AM), in a presentation in October to the Committee for economic development of Australia (CEDA) reported that Local Governments in Australia were quite large by world standards averaging more than 40,000 residents compared to USA 7,981 and the European Union 5,693. Post amalgamation a number of Perth Councils will be over 100,000 residents! 12.5 times the average in USA & 17.6 times the EU! His report continues ….Yet, researchers both here and abroad have found that larger councils do not exhibit lower unit costs of servicing than smaller ones. It has been found that some council functions are done best on a large scale while other tasks are performed better on a small scale. “Smaller units are the most democratic and participative, and also the most efficient.”

Amalgamations in every other jurisdiction in Australia have resulted in higher rates, reduced services, and less representation. If for some reason it was to be different in Perth then the Government has failed to show how. The State government has not provided any financial modelling.

WA mayors react angrily to limited funds for forced council mergers

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.
Troy Pickard
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

Dadour Poll – flow chart

Julie Matheson

The Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB) will soon make recommendations to the Minister for Local Government who will either accept or reject those recommendations.

Nonetheless, communities must ensure a fair process of local government reform and be ready to have a say in boundary adjustments that affect their districts.

Be ready, and make sure that at least 50% of your fellow residents and ratepayers vote on any proposal that affects your local government.

Here’s how the process works to vote on a LGAB or Minister Simpson’s proposal:

produced by Alison Sunderland, 2014 produced by Alison Sunderland, 2014

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