Coun­cil ‘quirks’ in the spot­light

Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS - Jes­sica War­riner

DRAW­ING may­ors out of a hat, so­cial me­dia “run­ning riot” and a lack of coun­cil­lor train­ing are just a few of the quirks and is­sues in the spot­light at lo­cal coun­cils across Perth.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter David Tem­ple­man said the 1995 Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act was cum­ber­some and needed mod­ernising, with phase one of a re­view just com­pleted and phase two soon to be un­der way.

“The act was es­sen­tially writ­ten be­fore the in­ter­net, be­fore so­cial me­dia, be­fore mod­ern, quick and ef­fi­cient meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” he said. “A num­ber of coun­cils for var­i­ous rea­sons don’t have the ex­per­tise re­quired to give good ad­vice or al­low good de­ci­sion-mak­ing to take place.”

Mr Tem­ple­man said it was clear there was an in­con­sis­tency in skills across coun­cil­lors and flagged that manda­tory train­ing was up for dis­cus­sion.

“We’ve got to come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that elected mem­bers need a ba­sic suite of skills in or­der to do the best job they can,” Mr Tem­ple­man said.

“Coun­cil­lors are look­ing at mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar bud­gets; you would think that a ba­sic re­quire­ment would be a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of for­mu­lat­ing and en­dors­ing a bud­get.

“I un­der­stand the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who put their hand up (to be coun­cil­lors) do it for the right rea­sons.

“I just want to make sure they’ve got the skills and ca­pac­ity they need to make those de­ci­sions.”

Mr Tem­ple­man said coun­cils also needed strate­gies to re­spond to so­cial me­dia is­sues in 2018 and they could po­ten­tially defuse some sit­u­a­tions by get­ting clear, timely in­for­ma­tion to ratepay­ers.

“A lot of com­mu­nity groups start up be­cause of an is­sue and things get out of hand; so­cial me­dia runs riot, coun­cil­lors get threat­ened, there’s bullying, all that sort of stuff,” he said.

“We all know you can’t al­ways con­trol what goes on so­cial me­dia, but all coun­cils have to be aware now that so­cial me­dia is a dis­rup­tion in some ways.

“Part of the an­swer might be very clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion, so there’s no am­bi­gu­ity.”

Mr Tem­ple­man said a num­ber of is­sues would be bed­ded down be­fore the 2019 lo­cal elec­tions, in­clud­ing se­lec­tion of may­ors.

Some coun­cils al­low con­stituents to di­rectly elect the mayor, while oth­ers have their coun­cil­lors choose; a dead­locked vote in Gos­nells last year re­sulted in the mayor be­ing drawn out of a hat.

“I think it’s a bit weird,” Mr Tem­ple­man said.

“I think there’s a bet­ter way and I think most peo­ple in the sec­tor would say it’s a bit em­bar­rass­ing.

“Let’s find a way that is ab­so­lutely fair and eq­ui­table.”

David Tem­ple­man

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