Use bal­lot box to keep coun­cils ac­count­able

Midland Reporter - - News - Josh Zim­mer­man

HIS­TORY shows us that just one in four West Aus­tralians par­tic­i­pates in the elec­tion of their may­ors and coun­cil­lors.

With about 24 per cent voter par­tic­i­pa­tion in the past two lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, the City of Swan comes in un­der the Perth metropoli­tan av­er­age of 27.55 per cent while the City of Kala­munda is slightly above at 28.25 – a far cry from the 87 per cent of West Aus­tralians cast­ing a bal­lot in March’s State elec­tion.

Although not com­pul­sory, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter David Tem­ple­man said vot­ing in lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions was cru­cial to en­sure coun­cils re­mained ac­count­able.

“In­ef­fi­cient and poorly run coun­cils can re­sult in poor de­ci­sion mak­ing and de­ci­sions that aren’t rep­re­sen­ta­tive of all seg­ments of the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“Com­pe­ti­tion breeds ex­cel­lence and a greater num­ber of can­di­dates will con­trib­ute to a higher stan­dard of com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance that com­mu­ni­ties de­serve.”

Coun­cils wield the power to set rates, up­grade or de­mol­ish sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties and ap­prove or knock back su­per­mar­kets or high-rise apart­ment blocks.

They are re­spon­si­ble for putting in place plans for the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of neigh­bour­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties and ev­ery year are col­lec­tively en­trusted with man­ag­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of ratepayer dol­lars.

At the start of the year the State Gov­ern­ment sus­pended the Shire of Ex­mouth coun­cil amid a cor­rup­tion probe.

In May, the Cor­rup­tion and Crime Com­mis­sion re­leased a state­ment that said Ex­mouth was the lat­est “of more than 10 re­gional and metropoli­tan lo­cal gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties to have at­tracted the Com­mis­sion’s in­ter­est in re­cent years”.

Mr Tem­ple­man said lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions were an op­por­tu­nity to in­flu­ence lo­cal de­ci­sion mak­ing.

“West Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ties de­serve strong and ca­pa­ble lo­cal gov­ern­ments,” he said.

“From main­tain­ing the roads we travel on, rub­bish col­lec­tion and pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties, to ma­jor plan­ning and build­ing ap­provals and set­ting rates, lo­cal gov­ern­ments de­fine the places where we live, work and play.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ments that per­form best have strong, ef­fec­tive coun­cil­lors and en­gaged com­mu­ni­ties.

“That’s why the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions are so im­por­tant.”

David Tem­ple­man.

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