WA councils face ‘reform fatigue’

By Angela Dorizas

Western Australian councils have called for a state-wide governance review to revitalise the local government reform process.

The WA Local Government Association (WALGA) today called on the State Government to reassess the current situation and redefine the reform agenda.

WALGA president Troy Pickard said many councils and shires were feeling “reform fatigue” following a two-year process of “exhaustive” sustainability reviews, community consultation and reporting.

Cr Pickard said the State Government’s reform process, which was “predominantly focused on amalgamations”, had proven unsuccessful.

“Only a handful of groupings have actually been created,” Cr Pickard told Government News.

“Two of the proposed mergers look likely to fail as a result of electoral petitions, which are effectively the legal trigger for a referendum on the reform process.

“It hasn’t worked and we need to look at new ways of doing things in our state.”

Cr Pickard said one particular disincentive was the reduction in grant streams councils faced following mergers.

WALGA State Council last week resolved that the State Government be encouraged to: declare its vision for the local government sector; conduct a state-wide governance review; establish policies, processes and resources for local government reform based on the outcomes of the review; and engage with the local government sector in the suggested review process.

Cr Pickard advised the Government to look for a model of reform that recognised local identity in decision making, while ensuring greater service delivery at a regional level.

“There is an appetite to do things differently in local government, but the question is about how it is delivered,” he said.

Cr Pickard recommended a state-wide governance review based upon the socio-geographic groupings found in metropolitan, regional and rural WA.

“My preference is that nothing is excluded and everything is included in the governance review,” he said.

“Let’s engage in a thorough process to investigate the governance model that is suitable for each environment, and engage local government in that conversation – not as an after thought, but as an integral part.”


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