-Update (April 2015)-
Barnett originally wanted to slash the number of metropolitan local governments from 30 to 16 but the reforms were put on hold as the majority of ratepayers rejected mergers. The WA government will still go ahead with a case by case basis looking at different local governments that did want reforms, effectively putting the onus on councils to see whether they want to amalgamate.
The State Government has provided grants between $50,000 and $200,000 totalling $1.7 million to local governments to prepare for reform and no further claims of expenses will be considered. Also, only ratepayers in councils amalgamated were given a say through the triggering of the dardour polls. The proposed amalgamations of South Perth/Victoria Park, East Fremantle and Fremantle, and Kwinana and Cockburn will not proceed.
The City of Perth act, which sees a City expansion, will progress as a priority regardless of the merger rejections.
Local government is the bedrock of our democracy. It is the first point of contact for people in terms of representation and delivers many local services. The Barnet Government has re-commenced the process of amalgamating local government authorities via boundary changes.
This process circumnavigates the community’s veto rights, the so-called Dadour Provisions[i], which are available by law when two councils merge and create a new council through amalgamations.
To ensure electors are heard the Greens WA moved an amendment (parliament.wa.gov.au/Parliment/Bills) to the Dadour provisions. The amendment ensures that electors still have a veto if only one council is abolished and the other one takes over via boundary changes. The Bill has yet to be passed but Robin will continue to push for his amendments in parliament.
Forcing councils to change without proper consideration of costs and benefits is not serving the local people. Experiences from forced amalgamations across Australia need to be taken into account. Figures compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics comparing Victorian local government operational expenditure between 1991-92 and 1996-97 in real terms suggested that operating costs had increased so that strong grounds existed to argue that local communities had not made any substantial economic gains[ii].
Local communities must retain a strong voice in all changes concerning their local government. The Greens support empowered, transparent, well-resourced, supported and sustainable local government councils.
[ii] Working Paper Series, 01-2010 March 2010;Historical Evolution of Local Government Amalgamation in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, by Ian Tiley and Brian Dollery, Centre for Local Government, UNE http://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/17470/01-2010.pdf