POLL DAY 7th February 2015 – IS IT GOING TO BE VIC PARK OR SOUTH PARK?

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.

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Parliamentary Motion: Local Government Amalgamations

The Shadow Minister for Local Government, David Templeman, sent the following to CEOs,   Mayors, Presidents and Elected Members,

On Wednesday 26 November 2014, I moved the following motion:
That this house –
(a) Condemns the Premier and the Minister for Local Government for allowing, through its forced amalgamations process, some communities in the metropolitan area an opportunity to have a poll under the Dadour provisions in the Local Government Act 1995 about their local council’s future, while others have not been given that democratic right; and
(b) Further, supports all affected communities having a right to a poll on their council’s future.

Extract from Hansard

[ASSEMBLY — Wednesday, 26 November 2014] p8879b-8894a

Mr David Templeman; Mrs Michelle Roberts; Mr Dave Kelly; Mr Bill Johnston; Mr Tony Simpson

[1] LOCAL GOVERNMENT — AMALGAMATIONS — POLL PROVISIONS

Motion MR D.A. TEMPLEMAN (Mandurah) [5.05 pm]: I move — That this house — (a) condemns the Premier and the Minister for Local Government for allowing, through its forced amalgamation process, some communities in the metropolitan area an opportunity to have a poll under the Dadour provisions in the Local Government Act 1995 about their local council’s future, while others have not been given that democratic right; and (b) further, supports all affected communities having a right to a poll on their council’s future.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: This house has debated numerous motions about the government’s forced amalgamation process in the metropolitan area. It has been an elongated, mishmash of goalpost changing, deceitful tactics and deceitful actions by the government and the minister. It has been a flawed process. No economic business case or model has been presented to support its purpose and it is based on a broken promise to the people of Western Australia prior to the March 2013 election.

The ACTING SPEAKER: Excuse me, member. I just need to direct you that you cannot call a minister of the Crown deceitful. You asserted that. I am just warning you, that is all.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: I will amend that to a deceitful government. We know the history of this process, we have gone through it on numerous occasions and I am not going to go through it again. A number of weeks ago, the Local Government Advisory Board made recommendations to the Minister for Local Government about what local government should look like post-2015. The board recommended that a range of councils either merge or dissolve and split into other entities through amalgamation or boundary changes. The minister indicated that he has accepted all but two of the board’s recommendations. We have been left with some communities in the metropolitan area affected by the changes to local government that will have an opportunity to take part in a poll through the Dadour provisions of the Local Government Act, which are triggered and enacted when certain things occur. The Dadour provisions were inserted into the act some decades ago —

Mr A.J. Simpson: It was in 1974.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: Sorry—in 1974. The minister and Premier argued in previous debates that the Dadour provisions are undemocratic. They have stated that on a number of occasions. Continue reading

Time To Scrap WALGA And Start Again

Originally posted by Ian Ker on his Vincent Blogspot – 11 November 2014

Time and time again, during this chaotic and drawn-out so-called reform process, WALGA has embarrassed itself and the local government sector by not adequately reflecting the views of local Councils. We shall probably never know the extent to which this is the result of Troy Pickard’s imposing himself on the organisation, but it is clear that any supposedly representative organisation that doesn’t reflect the diversity of views held by its members is not serving their interests.

WALGA has consistently supported the amalgamation thrust without acknowledging that many of its members oppose it.

Of late, WALGA pronouncements appear to align more with the state government and keeping its process on track than on making sure the outcome is sensible and supported. It almost seems as though the apparent chastisement of the state government for providing inadequate funding for the process is a smoke-screen to draw attention away from WALGA’s sycophancy.

The WALGA model, with zones and State Council, is yet another example of systematic concentration of power at the expense of diversity and democracy.

Each Council is part of a WALGA Zone. Each zone considers an issue and ‘instructs’ its delegates to State Council, where WALGA policy is determined.

It is easy to see how this model can lead to perverse or undemocratic outcomes. In the case of local government so-called reform, the western suburbs councils and Vincent are all but one of the members of the Central Zone (the other being the City of Perth). The Central Zone, therefore, might be expected to have a large majority view against amalgamations.

Other metropolitan zones are likely to be more evenly split between potential ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

So we can easily have a majority of zones, but a minority of councils, in favour of amalgamations.

Perhaps scrapping WALGA would be a step too far, although the City of Nedlands seems to be faring quite well without it, but it clearly needs to change and become more representative of the diversity of views held by its members.

In the case of local government reform, I wonder how long it will take for the representatives of non-metropolitan councils to catch up with the admirable and realistic position adopted by the National Party.

Perth council mergers: Principal argument rejected by court as protesters rally

ABC News Updated 1 minute ago Tue 25 Nov 2014, 3:56pm

Perth councils have been forced to abandon one of their principal grounds for a Supreme Court challenge to the Western Australian Government’s mergers plan.

Several councils including Subiaco, South Perth and Serpentine-Jarrahdale, claim the Government’s plan to cut Perth councils from 30 to 16 is invalid because it does not comply with the Local Government Act.

The lawyer representing the councils, Chris Shanahan, said the action was about the process and the way Local Government Minister Tony Simpson sought permission to go through with the mergers.

He argued in court that Mr Simpson had initially made the “artificial” decision to split the plan into 12 pieces to avoid giving electors the right to vote on the changes.

But after legal argument with Chief Justice Wayne Martin, Mr Shanahan conceded this did not apply to his clients because the Local Government Advisory Board had not accepted most of Mr Simpson’s proposals, and he abandoned the argument.

Mr Shanahan also claimed there was proof of extensive bias by the board’s chair, Mel Congerton, and other members in favour of the merger plans.

He revealed an email by Mr Congerton sent in July 2013.

“Let the minister know that he’s doing a great job in the trenches,” Mr Congerton purportedly wrote.

“In the words of Churchill – we will prevail.”

Justice Martin questioned whether this was relevant given it was not until later that year that the Minister announced his proposals for council mergers.

Mr Shanahan also outlined an email to Premier Colin Barnett’s by Mr Congerton where he expressed an interest in becoming a local government commissioner, as previously revealed by the ABC.

“That might give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias,” Mr Shanahan said.

He also said meetings by board members with Mr Simpson and the involvement by Local Government Department members in the board’s deliberations pointed to bias.

That argument was rejected by the lawyer representing the State Government, Craig Bydder.

He said if the board had been doing the Government’s bidding it would have gone along with its wish for a greater City of Perth, including the University of Western Australia, QEII hospital and Kings Park.

Mr Bydder agreed with Justice Martin that the most which could be said was Mr Congerton was generally supportive of the council merger plan.

Mr Shanahan also suggested local governments and electors should have been allowed to make their own proposals for boundary changes before the Local Government Advisory Board made its recommendations to Government.