Council ‘quirks’ in the spotlight
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.”