More Council merger backlash

Protesters carry ‘Coffin of Democracy’

ABC News 25 November 2014

Prior to the hearing protesters carried what they called the “coffin of democracy” from the Concert Hall along St Georges Terrace to the front steps of the court.

Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group convenor Alan Malcolm was among the 30 protesters who accompanied the fake coffin in a mock funeral procession.

Alan Malcolm Save Kalamunda Action Group
PHOTO: Alan Malcolm from the Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group, dressed as an undertaker for today’s protest against the process of merging councils. (ABC News: Natasha Harradine)
He said the forced amalgamations were undemocratic.

“We believe the Government has sought throughout this entire process to deny people their democratic right to vote on forced amalgamations, first of all by seeking to remove the Dadour provision from the Local Government Act and then by making these forced mergers,” he said.

Mr Malcolm also criticised Mr Barnett’s move to force the mergers.

“We believe he’s burying the democratic process and this is a symbolic attempt to highlight that they are, in fact, burying democracy,” he said.

“Democracy is not something political, it’s the bedrock, the foundation of the entire political system.

“It’s about asking or demanding our democratic right to vote on something we believe we should be entitled to have a democratic vote on, that is the forced amalgamations or mergers of most of, or nearly all the cities, shires and councils within the Perth metropolitan area.”

The State Government last month rejected the Local Government Advisory Board’s recommendation for merging the five western suburbs councils of Peppermint Grove, Claremont, Nedlands, Mosman Park and Cottesloe into one.

The Premier made it clear the Government still planned to move on the western suburbs merger at some point, but refused to explain how it would achieve that.

There are provisions in the Local Government Act for ratepayers to have a vote over planned mergers through what is called as a Dadour poll.

But because some mergers were being done through a boundary adjustment rather than an amalgamation, not all residents will have a say, which sparked claims that the process is undemocratic.

Mayors predicted rates would have to increase to pay for the Government’s plans after it only allocated $60 million for the merger process.

Of that sum, $45 million was in the form of loans.

Ratepayers head to WA Parliament to demand say on council mergers

By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 6:23pmTue 18 Nov 2014, 6:23pm

Ratepayers converge on WA Parliament Ratepayers have taken their petitions opposing the council merger process to Parliament. (ABC News: Jessica Strutt)

Ratepayers have converged on Western Australia’s Parliament to present petitions demanding a say on planned council mergers.

The Government is slashing the number of councils in metropolitan Perth from 30 to 16, but only residents in six council areas will be able to vote on the mergers.

A combination of amalgamations and boundary adjustments is being used to cut the number of councils.

Only councils being amalgamated get to vote on the process, but the Government has refused to explain on what basis it was decided which councils will be merged using boundary adjustments, and which will be joined using amalgamations.

Residents in a number of disaffected local governments have organised petitions with thousands of signatures demanding the right to hold a Dadour poll.

Save Serpentine Jarrahdale group’s Jackie Dines said her group had attracted 500 signatures from local residents in one week.

“In the community nobody wants to see their local government area be renamed,” she said.

“At the very least give us our democratic right to have a vote on what happens, [but] they’re not doing that.”

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan accepted the petitions outside Parliament after Local Government Minister Tony Simpson refused to do so.

Mr McGowan said the Government’s process was “a dog’s breakfast” and was disempowering ratepayers.

“The Government has ignored community views and wishes,” he said.

“This is the Premier and the Liberal Party running roughshod over local communities.

“We live in a democratic state and the Premier and the Liberal Party are ignoring basic democratic principles and that’s pretty shameful.”

Quizzed about whether he would grant ratepayers in all local governments access to a poll, Premier Colin Barnett indicated he would not.

“That’s not the law, and what we have said is we have accepted the recommendation as to the structure of local government,” he said.

“We will proceed progressively one by one and I think in time, most local governments will agree.

“This is some sort of rearguard action to stop a modern, functional system of local government for younger generations and generations to follow.”

Residents in the City of Kwinana, which the Government plans to merge with the City of Cockburn, are entitled to vote because their local government is being amalgamated.

At a special meeting today, Kwinana Council voted unanimously to support its community to hold a poll on the proposed amalgamation.

Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said the decision was made after about 500 signatures were collected in favour of residents having access to a poll.

She estimated the cost to ratepayers of the poll would be $50,000.

“We resolved it’s not in the best overall interest of the Kwinana community that we amalgamate because of the high transition costs, no additional funding on offer from the Government and no ward representation,” she said.

Council merger backlash grows

The backlash against forced council mergers is growing, with another local authority launching legal action against the State Government’s plans.

Claire Moodie
Source: 7.30 WA | Duration: 8min

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/council-merger-backlash-grows/5876532