Legal Action Over Council Mergers

ABC News

Legal action against the WA Government’s plans to slash the number of local councils in the metropolitan area is expected to be officially launched in the Supreme Court today.

The ABC has confirmed the four parties to the legal action will be Vincent resident Ian Ker, the City of South Perth, the City of Subiaco and the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale.

Other councils will provide financial support for the action but will not be named as parties.

The lawyer acting for the group, John Hammond, said the action would be against Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson and members of the Local Government Advisory Board, which is currently considering the Government’s proposed boundary changes.

Mr Hammond said he was expecting to lodge papers in the Supreme Court tomorrow seeking a judicial review.

He said the basis for the action was the Government had not complied with the Local Government Act and therefore the process was invalid.

“The argument to the Supreme Court that the State Government and the Local Government Advisory Board have not complied with the Local Government Act is a strong argument,” Mr Hammond said.

The Local Government Advisory Board is expected to report to Mr Simpson this month on the proposed boundary changes.

The ABC understands the parties to the legal action may seek an injunction to stop that report being considered by the Minister, which could impact on the Government’s timeline for implementing the mergers of metropolitan councils.

Premier Colin Barnett has previously said he was confident there were no grounds for a legal challenge.

“I can’t see that a legal challenge would succeed but I just urge people in local government to look forward and not look back,” Mr Barnett said in March.

Perth mayors previously threatened to walk away from the process unless more money was found to fund it.

The 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.

Anti-merger Councils Confident of Supreme Court Hearing

Shire of Kalamunda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

15 September 2014

 ANTI-MERGER COUNCILS CONFIDENT OF SUPREME COURT HEARING

Councils opposing forced amalgamations in the WA Supreme Court have been told by Chief Justice Martin the case will be heard on 25th November 2014.

The Council merger plans by the Minister for Local Government are being challenged by the Cities of Subiaco, South Perth and the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale, along with former Vincent Councillor Ian Ker.

Their Supreme Court action is being supported by the 12-member Councils for Democracy, including the Shire of Kalamunda.

Kalamunda Shire President Sue Bilich said “Chief Justice Martin signed consent orders last week enabling the case to proceed to hearing”.

The signing of consent orders means both sides have agreed to produce documents in support of their arguments ready for  the hearing on 25th November 2014.

“The Councils and their legal team are confident that there is a case for the Minister and the Local Government Advisory Board to answer and that this could be a turning point for local government reform, Mrs Bilich said.

The Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson received the report on local government reform from the Local Government Advisory Board last week and told media on Friday he was yet to read the 652 page report in its entirety or brief his colleagues.

He said he was waiting for the second part of the report which is still with the Advisory Board. Under the Local Government Act, the Minister can accept or reject the recommendations but not change them

The Supreme Court challenge against him alleges the Minister’s conduct was unlawful and misleading when he induced Councils to submit merger proposals, circumventing the Dadour Provisions which would give residents a vote by poll, and it challenges the impartiality of LGAB members, some of whom are government employees or who represent affected Councils.

It is understood that if the Minister seeks to act on the report before completion of the legal action, that the Councils and Mr I Ker will apply for an injunction from the Supreme Court.”

Mrs Bilich said; “A large majority of Shire of Kalamunda residents have been vocal in their objection to the proposed merger with Belmont and in February this year Electors attended the Annual General Meeting of the Shire and moved motions to fight this battle in the courts if need be. It appears that request is now coming to fruition and I am very pleased and proud to know we have a fiercely  independent thinking community in the Shire. This has been a fight for democracy through and through and it seems that people power may prevail in the end and we will either get to vote on our  future or we will stop the process. Both of which are acceptable outcomes for the community.”