Time To Scrap WALGA And Start Again

Originally posted by Ian Ker on his Vincent Blogspot – 11 November 2014

Time and time again, during this chaotic and drawn-out so-called reform process, WALGA has embarrassed itself and the local government sector by not adequately reflecting the views of local Councils. We shall probably never know the extent to which this is the result of Troy Pickard’s imposing himself on the organisation, but it is clear that any supposedly representative organisation that doesn’t reflect the diversity of views held by its members is not serving their interests.

WALGA has consistently supported the amalgamation thrust without acknowledging that many of its members oppose it.

Of late, WALGA pronouncements appear to align more with the state government and keeping its process on track than on making sure the outcome is sensible and supported. It almost seems as though the apparent chastisement of the state government for providing inadequate funding for the process is a smoke-screen to draw attention away from WALGA’s sycophancy.

The WALGA model, with zones and State Council, is yet another example of systematic concentration of power at the expense of diversity and democracy.

Each Council is part of a WALGA Zone. Each zone considers an issue and ‘instructs’ its delegates to State Council, where WALGA policy is determined.

It is easy to see how this model can lead to perverse or undemocratic outcomes. In the case of local government so-called reform, the western suburbs councils and Vincent are all but one of the members of the Central Zone (the other being the City of Perth). The Central Zone, therefore, might be expected to have a large majority view against amalgamations.

Other metropolitan zones are likely to be more evenly split between potential ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

So we can easily have a majority of zones, but a minority of councils, in favour of amalgamations.

Perhaps scrapping WALGA would be a step too far, although the City of Nedlands seems to be faring quite well without it, but it clearly needs to change and become more representative of the diversity of views held by its members.

In the case of local government reform, I wonder how long it will take for the representatives of non-metropolitan councils to catch up with the admirable and realistic position adopted by the National Party.

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.

Rates to Rise Without Extra Merger Cash

ABC News

Angry WA mayors have issued a three-week ultimatum to Premier Colin Barnett to respond to demands for more funds for council amalgamations.

The fight between mayors and the State Government escalated after the recent state budget failed to set aside the significant funding that local governments had been promised to get on with the mergers.

Following a meeting today, local governments say the threat to walk away from the amalgamation process remains, but in the interim they will wage a campaign warning the community that without funding, rates will rise.

“The clock is ticking and we do need a clear decisive response to the State Government on what they plan to do,” West Australia Local Government Association (WALGA) president Troy Pickard said.

“We will be running a metropolitan-wide campaign raising concerns to the West Australian community about the significant cost of reform and that the concern from the sector that they may be exposed to pay for that through their rates.”

But Mr Barnett says that if local councils will not cooperate, the Government will run the amalgamation process without their involvement.

“Well, I hope local government doesn’t do that, but if they were to walk away from the process, the process will go on without them,” he said.

“The State Government will then run the process.”

The state budget allocated $5 million a year for the next three years in grants to assist the process, and on top of that the Government is offering $45 million in low-interest loans to local governments.

But Perth mayors say the funding is nowhere near enough.

WALGA wants $60 million in the coming financial year to fund the merger process.

Kwinana mayor Carol Adams said local MPs would be targeted in the campaign for more Government funding.

“We’re … going to go and speak to our local members to really get their view on it, and to make them understand how much this is going to be hurting their constituency,” she said.

WSA Public Forum 26 November 2012 – a presentation by Heather Henderson

A presentation by Mayor Heather Henderson 

The recently release  of the final report from the Metropolitan Local Government Review Panel foreshadows the most significant changes we have seen in the history of Western Australian local government.

One of the recommendations in the report, which poses a real and immediate threat to our communities is the amalgamation of the seven western suburbs local governments.

The western suburbs have undoubtedly been a target for amalgamations since the state government began its reform agenda about four years ago. Continue reading