What no Councillors for 2yrs means to you

Which Way?
Which Way? (Photo credit: EricMagnuson) CC NC ShareAlike Flickr

Already suspended Councillors of Canning could be kept out until March 2014, when yet another inquiry is set to end.

However, this may mean we are not free to vote in new Councillors at local government elections later this year.

With the current Council suspended in November, a new 12 month inquiry three months away, and the possible need for an extraordinary election to vote in new reps after that, we could be without Councillors for up to 2 years.

So where does that leave us – the people who matter most – in being able to determine our future?

Commissioner Reynolds cannot possibly replace the role of 11 Councillors over an extended period. I believe his appointment is only part-time, as it is.

In Armadale, where Mr Reynolds was Mayor until last year, there are 14 Councillors to represent 55,000 residents.

The Commissioner cannot bring the same level of scrutiny to recommendations made by city executives and officers; he is not a long-term resident.

If the State Govt believed that surrounding Politicians were able to reflect the community’s domestic concerns as effectively as Councillors, it would have interviewed more than just Liberal Politicians for the first inquiry in to Canning.

A quick reality check there also – as a guide, our lower house Politicians are required to represent as many as four times the number of people Canning Councillors did.

Clearly it would be difficult then for local Politicians to step in to the void created by the long term absence of Councillors.

A new concern is Commissioner Reynolds signalling he will prepare the City of Canning to deal with the State Government’s reform proposals.

It is not appropriate Canning proceed down that track without the considered oversight of experienced Councillors and a great deal of community consultation.

Almost all metropolitan Councils have rejected the Barnett Govt’s plan for amalgamations. We need to know more about this.

However, community workshops these days revolve around a quick PowerPoint presentation, putting pins on maps and writing short thoughts on post-it pads.

Alternatively it can cost hundreds of thousands to set up community consultation opportunities, involving, for some reason, flying in eastern states consultants, but basically only amounting to general impressions being conveyed.

Merging multiple councils to create new large entities, with different rules, as yet unknown implications for the community, and the potential loss of many employees’ jobs, requires a more sophisticated and longer term interaction with the community – especially in the absence of its democratically elected representatives.

Last year, I was a member of a volunteer group that was to help shape the final outcome of Canning’s first ever Community Plan.  At best, it was a general role; the men and women invited to participate did not represent the actual ratepayers and their concerns.

Minister for Local Government, John Castrilli, has effectively removed deeper scrutiny of city business by the community, through its representatives.

His actions may also stop us being able to move forward in October, with a new Council, as they did last year in preventing the appointment of new executives.

Lastly, there is nothing in Minister Castrilli’s media release about the second inquiry which assures us this time the investigation will be held openly, and accountable to residents.

If that is the case, then yet again decisions about our future will be made behind closed doors.

Please consider signing the Petition to the Minister, calling for inquiries to be open to the public, and fully accountable.