Review risks merger return
NEDLANDS Mayor Max Hipkins has warned council the issue of mergers could arise from a review of the 1995 Local Government Act announced by the State Government last week.
“This is a real risk but I hope the current Government doesn’t go down this path and has learnt from the mistakes of the previous government,” Mr Hipkins, who supports incentives for councils to work together, said
The sometimes tortuous five-year process of merger discussions across Perth prompted frequent council disgruntlement and was eventually scrapped by former premier Colin Barnett in 2015.
The new review will look at participation in elections and councillors’ gift disclosures, greater resident participation in decisionmaking, improving councillor behaviour, allowing council enterprises and improving finances.
Mr Hipkins said he supported a general review that could simplify compliance reporting by councillors, create greater transparency in decision-making, and have great use of online lodgements of disclosures, declarations, forms, plans and submissions.
However, he does not support the Government potentially changing the Act, in part prompted by the investigation into Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, so an individual mayor or councillors could be removed from a council.
“The majority of complaints to the Local Government Standards Panel are by elected members about behaviour of other elected members, so if the Act was changed there could be ganging up to remove individuals, because the ‘one out, all out’ rule puts a brake on complaints,” Mr Hipkins said.
He said council-run enterprises could provide revenue now that costs are shifting from State to local governments.
Local Government Minister David Templeman said the Government opposed compulsory mergers but would consider proposals for voluntary change that would also need “close consultation” councils.
Mr Templeman said a councillor would be removed if found to have seriously breached the Act, but the threshold for removal would be set “very high” with “safeguards to ensure natural justice”.
Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins is cautious about the review of the 1995 Local Government Act.