Re­view risks merger re­turn

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Fashion -

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.

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