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

Day Breaks Ranks on Council Mergers

Daniel Emerson
October 23, 2014, 1:35 pm

Senior Barnett minister John Day breaks ranks to back ratepayer input into Kalamunda merger plan.
John Day, one of the most senior ministers of the Barnett Government, has broken ranks over the proposed council merger in his electorate of Kalamunda by arguing it needs to be put to ratepayers.

The proposed mergers of the Shire of Kalamunda with the City of Belmont and Shire of Mundaring with the City of Swan were among councils Colin Barnett yesterday announced would be achieved via boundary adjustments rather than amalgamations.

Under boundary adjustments, two local governments are brought together by “adjusting” one of their borders around both of them while reducing the other’s down to nothing, and ratepayers do not get a say.

Amalgamations are done under the Local Government Act, giving ratepayers the right to vote, and can be vetoed if a majority of once council’s electors turn up to vote ‘no’.
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SEE THE NEW COUNCIL BOUNDARIES

THE NEW COUNCIL BOUNDARIES EXPLAINED
Mr Day, who is Planning Minister and Leader of the Government in the Lower House, said he could understand the concerns of ratepayers in his electorate over not getting a vote on boundary changes.

“I do share their concern about the proposed process to bring Kalamunda and Belmont together and I’ve made that very clear over the last couple of months and in my view it does need to be the more equitable and fairer process of the amalgamation method being used rather than one local government completely absorbing the other,” he said.

“So that’s a work in progress. I’ll be working with the Shire of Kalamunda and within the Government to get what I think is a fair and equitable outcome for the Shire of Kalamunda and the same applies also for the Shire of Mundaring in the proposed merger with the City of Swan.”

Asked why he accepted the model as a member of Cabinet, Mr Day suggested the support only extended to the new entities – not the method by which they were to be created.

“What has been said in fact is that the Government accepts the boundaries which are proposed (by the Local Government Advisory Board), with the exception of around UWA and the QEII medical centre, but that each individual proposal will be considered on a case by case basis as to how it is implemented,” he said.

Mr Day said it was “not completely consistent” for the LGAB to recommend some councils be merged via boundary changes while others be achieved via an amalgamation.

“That’s not for me to explain but it’s for me to deal with as a local member,” he said.

“It is a significant local issue in the Kalamunda district. I’m very well aware of that.”

Mr Day said there were advantages to the Shire of Kalamunda merging with the City of Belmont – such as Perth Airport and surrounding industrial land being located in one local government, which was better from a planning standpoint.

“There is a good rationale as to the proposed outcome. How we get there is really important and I have always said it needs to be fair and equitable to all and that’s something I am continuing to work on,” he said.

Letter to the POST – WSA Established 30 June 2012

What will it take for our Premier Barnett, Planning Minister John Day, and Minister for Environment; Water Bill Marmion and the Liberal Government to respond to the growing wave of fear, anger and alienation across the western suburbs?

What will it take for them to acknowledge just how much we resent the erosion of our democratic rights and threats to our communities and built and natural environment?

Do they really feel they can go on treating us with utter contempt and making derogatory remarks about our ‘demographics’ and unwillingness to embrace change whenever we express our views?

Fourteen thousand of us signed petitions against the Cottesloe beachfront development and 11,000 regarding the Perth Waterfront Development and rerouting of Riverside Drive. The electors made 800 submissions against the five-storey Waratah Avenue Development in Dalkeith.  Subiaco has been overwhelmed with protests against high-rise developments. We have written to our public representatives. All to no avail. Continue reading

The Perth Waterfront Development (Elizabeth Quay)

 Posted on June 25, 2012 by Western Suburbs AllianceThis was what the Esplanade looked like before Premier Barnett and Planning Minister Day decided that this would become a “vibrant tourist area” linking the river to the city. In fact it will have nine 6 to 35 storey buildings, plus a 5 storey parking podium and comprise 1,700 apartments, 150,000 m2 of offices, 39,000 m2 of retail space and a 220 room hotel. The government is paying $440M (the 2009 estimate) to develop this site and will then sell it off to developers for $170M. An average of $19M per site.The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority is proud to show you what this will be like in a three-minute video at http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/Projects/Elizabeth-Quay/Gallery. These images are totally misleading. Showing the tower blocks in white downplays their over-bearing impact. For most of the day, the site will be in deep shadow right down to the water’s edge. The tall buildings will create a wind tunnel. Continue reading