Perth councils push their ideas for mergers

By Paul Hemsley

The Western Australian government’s ambitious and controversial plan to “create fewer, bigger, stronger councils” by amalgamating Perth’s metropolitan councils is quickly taking shape after 19 local governments submitted their own merger ideas to the Independent Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB).

The council submissions are the latest step in Premier Colin Barnett’s wider plan to overhaul local government boundaries in the Perth metro area and follow the announcement of the state government’s preferred model in July 2013 to more than halve the number of local governments from the 30 now operating to just 14.

So far the WA government has accepted proposals from the Shire of Mundaring, City of Swan and Town of Bassendean, Town of Claremont, Town of Cambridge (two proposals), City of Armadale, City of Bayswater, City of Canning, City of Rockingham, City of Belmont, City of Melville, City of Stirling, City of Fremantle, City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park, City of Perth, Shire of Kalamunda, City of Vincent and City of Gosnells.

The voluntary input from WA’s councils stands in significant contrast to the Queensland acrimonious and divisive merger experience under former Premier Anna Bligh that imposed amalgamations on councils in 2008.

Following that experience, the WA government has been at pains to prevent the merger issue from devolving into a brawl over boundaries by seeking ideas for efficiencies from the state’s local government sector itself.

Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson said the councils’ proposals represented a “major step in historic reforms” which aimed to “redefine outdated” local government boundaries to create councils with “improved economies of scale” and provided better co-ordination across the metropolitan area.

“These proposals will play a significant role in reshaping local government across the metropolitan area.  I have huge admiration for the mayors and CEOs who have been working together to make this happen,” Mr Simpson said said.

Mr Simpson said the state government’s objective is to “create bigger councils” able to deliver more services for residents.

He described the existing council boundaries, in many cases drawn up more than 100 years ago, as “no longer relevant”.

Mr Simpson said the proposals covered the entire metropolitan area and would now be considered by the LGAB which will report to the Minister.

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