LOCAL government in Perth has been turned on its head following the draft findings of a review designed to significantly cut the number of local councils.
The Metropolitan Local Government Review, chaired by Professor Alan Robson, has recommended three options for change – a single council servicing all of Perth, or five distinct representative bodies, or as many as 10 to 12 councils.
For the staff and elected members of the 30 councils that now comprise the sector, the recommendations herald change in the way the councils will in future manage a $1.85 billion portfolio.
In a raft of interim recommendations to the Local Government Minister John Castrilli, Professor Robson is adamant that the status quo cannot remain.
The panel argues that the present mix of councils is illogical, disproportionate in terms of service delivery, mostly inefficient and importantly, sorely lacking in terms of developing a cohesive strategy for the city as a whole.
It’s hard not to get the impression that the panel’s preferred model is actually one council for all of Perth – the model that exists in Brisbane.
What the review concludes about the development of municipal-wide functions such as waste disposal, transport and planning makes a lot of sense.
What is not clear is how many councillors might be required to ensure the community’s views are reflected in the decision making of any new councils.
Once the final report is handed to Government in June, the challenge will be for the Barnett Government to respond, and to do so quickly.
Perth’s 30 present councils now find themselves in a state of flux, with the uncertainty already impacting on council decision making, so the sector is awaiting a sense of clarity and purpose in the Government’s policy response.
Given the scope of the reform, transitional arrangements will need to be developed for the benefit of ratepayers, council staff and the elected members.