By Rob O’Brien
The number of councils in Western Australia will have to be significantly reduced if real reform of local government is to work, the state’s premier has said.
Speaking to local government members at the WA Local Government Association’s Annual General Meeting in Perth on Friday, Premier Colin Barnett said he believed the number of councils needed to be cut from 139 to fewer than 100, “perhaps significantly less”.
WALGA President Cr Bill Mitchell urged the meeting to see the reform process as an opportunity to have a role in ensuring the long term sustainability of their communities, but he stressed that the process should be voluntary.
He said that WALGA remained committed to voluntary reform of the sector without the need for State Government to force amalgamations of councils.
“The Premier has given some direction today that he believes that Western Australia requires fewer than 100 Local Governments,” Cr Mitchell said.
“This detail alone helps the sector have some understanding of what is expected of them from the State Government’s reform process.
“However the process of reform needs to continue to be voluntary to ensure that changes are supported by the community and are sustainable in the long term.”
Also at the AGM, the Premier agreed to renew the State and Local Government Partnership Agreement, which has not been formalised since the end of the Gallop Government.
The Partnership Agreement commits the State Government to meet and consult with the local government sector ahead of policy and operational decisions that could impact the sector.
“It is time for the State Government to again see Local Government as a partner in delivering services to the community and I welcome the Premier’s leadership on this,” Cr Mitchell said.
The AGM wound up the four-day annual Local Government Convention, held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and attended by almost 600 Elected Members and staff.
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