Keeping you informed on council mergers No. 1: Summarising Metro Local Govt Review Final Report

Time to get serious
Time to get serious (Photo credit: Librarian by Day) CC NC ShareAlike Flickr

The findings of the Independent Panel, which undertook the Metropolitan Local Govt Review, are worth contemplating.

Since 1910 WA has only reduced its number of councils by 5%, compared to 40-60% elsewhere.

Basically, we’ve ended up with 30 different sized metro councils, with varying levels of service provision because of differences in rates’ bases.

The challenges inherent in having so many local govt areas include dealing with 30 sets of local laws, and the inability to achieve regional co-operation in traffic and parking issues.

Avenues that could help councils financially, such as the ability to run money-making enterprises, charge parking at beaches to cover maintenance costs, or even recognition in the Constitution (to the point where powers are appointed to local govt, which would direct revenue from taxes to enact), are not looking likely without councils agreeing to changes themselves.

The Panel feels that if an independent group was given the task of designing city governance today, there is little chance it would encourage many small parts to the whole.  It would simply be too difficult to achieve consensus – a defining, united vision.

The thrust, then, is to encourage “enhanced strategic thinking and leadership” ability, to manage anticipated “extraordinary growth”.

Amongst other benefits, this would facilitate Councils entering in to significant partnerships with the state to deliver projects such as the marina at Joondalup, a second CBD at Stirling, and negotiating in the first light rail systems.

A key issue in the report is how to distribute intergenerational equity throughout the city: “findings are [geared towards] ensuring appropriate governance for Perth on behalf of all residents irrespective of their socio-economic status”.

The review points out the needs of our ageing population and the services councils will need to provide as spending capacity lessens.

The Panel doesn’t believe that sense of place/local identity will be lost, as areas will retain character and history.  Interestingly, transition to amalgamation may include the ability of residents to negotiate to keep certain services.

Community engagement should increase – the review poses a formal engagement network, ongoing, rather than as projects arise.

Ideally, voting should become compulsory.  In recognition of the increased stature of amalgamated councils, remuneration levels would be lifted to attract councillors suited to higher level management, ie, large populations and budgets of $200m or more.

Party and group nominations to fill positions on councils will be acceptable.

Given that there are issues regarding the relationship between councils and city administrations,  the Panel believes distinctions in responsibility should be more clearly defined and possibly overseen by an independent commission.

Presumably this will allow for a more timely resolution of disputes.

It is believed the 30 Perth metropolitan councils should be reduced to 12.

We have had greater city plans for a long time – in the early 2000s, Labor’s Network City had a target that 60% of all new housing would be built in to Perth’s existing envelope.

With the election of the Barnett Govt the new plan – now called Directions 2031, revised the infill target on new housing to 47%.  Within two years, however, planning estimates had to be reviewed.  Our population was growing faster than anticipated.

The Independent Panel believes that amalgamating Councils may be the only way to see the changes needed in our city and our suburbs’ ability to meet the extraordinary growth challenge.

Want to make a submission on the final report of the Metro Local Govt Review?

SUBMISSIONS FROM THE PUBLIC ARE WELCOMED, AND CAN BE LODGED HERE USING A SIMPLE ONLINE PORTAL

Closing date for submissions (No Exceptions) is April 5th.

A full copy of the final report is here

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