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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Local Government Reform Decision

22 October 2014
The State Government today announced its decision on reform for Perth’s metropolitan local governments.

It has foreshadowed a City of Perth Act to recognise the State capital and its intention to cut the number of local governments from 30 to 16.

Premier Colin Barnett and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson briefed metropolitan local government Mayors, Presidents and Chief Executive Officers this morning before releasing the full report prepared by the Local Government Advisory Board.

Details are available on the Metropolitan Reform website.

The State Government has announced that the following local governments will be joined by boundary adjustments:

City of Swan and Shire of Mundaring to form City of Swan
City of Bayswater and Town of Bassendean to form City of Bayswater
City of Belmont and Shire of Kalamunda to form City of Belmont
City of Subiaco and Town of Cambridge to form City of Subiaco
City of Armadale and the north of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to form City of Armadale
Shire of Murray and the south of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to form Shire of Murray
City of Gosnells and City of Canning to form City of Gosnells
A modified City of Stirling
A modified City of Melville
The report recommends six local governments be amalgamated into three:

City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park to form City of South Park
City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle to form City of Fremantle
City of Kwinana and City of Cockburn to form City of Jervoise Bay
The City of Perth and the City of Vincent will come under a City of Perth Act, which will include Kings Park, the University of WA and the QEII medical centre. Once these boundaries are formalised, the State Government will take steps to create a City of Riversea based around the western suburbs councils of Claremont, Nedlands, Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove.

There is little or no change to the cities of Joondalup, Rockingham and Wanneroo.

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.

City of Perth and Burswood

ABC News – By Jessica Strutt

The City of Perth looks set to be the loser under final recommendations given to the WA Government on new council boundaries.

The ABC has confirmed the City of Perth will not get some of the key assets it has been lobbying for, including the lucrative Burswood peninsula where the casino is located and the new sports stadium is being built.

Both the State Government and the City of Perth had put forward proposals to significantly expand the capital city’s boundaries to include landmarks such as Kings Park, the University of Western Australia and most of the Burswood peninsula.

The board has, however, recommended to Local Government Minister Tony Simpson that the Burswood peninsula stay with an amalgamated City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park.

Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan said he felt hopeful they would get to keep Burswood.

“We feel like we put up a strong community effort to maintain the peninsula,” he said.

“[We feel] confident the board will follow its previous decisions that say the river is the natural boundary.”

But it is understood the Local Government Advisory Board has recommended UWA go within the new City of Nedlands boundaries.

At the moment the UWA campus is split between three separate local governments.

UWA vice chancellor Paul Johnson expressed concern about the proposal.

“If today’s media reports about local government reform are correct, they are concerning for the University of Western Australia,” he said.

“We believe placing the university into the City Of Perth is the best way to ensure the people of Western Australia can fully reap the benefits of having a world-class university.”