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.

Council Amalgamation Plan in Doubt Amid Funding Stoush

ABC News

The West Australian Government’s council merger plans are in danger of collapse, with Perth mayors threatening to walk away from the process unless more money is found.

Last week’s 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.

Mayors from several Perth councils met with Local Government Minister Tony Simpson and say they feel betrayed.

The Government wants to halve the number of metropolitan councils from 30 to 15, but the plan has attracted criticism from councils, the Opposition and even government backbenchers.

Hundreds of people rallied outside Parliament House last month in opposition to the mergers, and an alliance of at least eight councils has been formed to fight the plans.

Bassendean Mayor John Gangell said the State Government has not been able to say how much amalgamations will cost.

“[We feel] completely betrayed,” he said.

“Our communities are now going to have to pay for the State Government’s own reform and we’re going to demand the State Government fully fund this process or we’re going to walk away.

“It is a State Government reform and we’ve told him [Mr Simpson] if they do not comply, then local government will look at having no further involvement in the process.”

Serpentine Jarrahdale shire president Keith Ellis says it is unfair.

“You know they said that they were going to fund the money, they’re not funding it, they want us to borrow money to pay for it, and we’re not gonna put up with it, the ratepayers don’t deserve it,” he said.

“And this government is financially broke; Serpentine Jarrahdale, little Serpentine Jarrahdale, we’re debt free! If we’re debt free why can’t they manage it?”