A quick update on amalgamations – a Freo perspective

There has been a lot of noise and angst around local government amalgamations in recent week largely because the State Government announced that would only fund less than a quarter of the estimated $65 million in costs.

Given this is a State Government project imposed on local Councils and communities there was understandably a fair bit of outrage about this cost shifting to local ratepayers

While there is huge frustration that the State Government have reneged on their promise to fund amalgamations, I don’t believe Fremantle will walk away from the whole process (as reported on last week’s Herald front-page) as we have come too far as a community to do that now.

But many mayors and councils around Perth have said they will walk away and this may then put the whole reform process in jeopardy or force the state government to sack some councils.

In reality I expect Fremantle’s response to be more moderate. We will make it very clear what parts of your rate rise is as a result of amalgamation costs so that all can clearly see the extent to which this cost shifting from state to local government has occurred.

As for boundaries, we still expect the local government advisory board to make a recommendation in July and for state government to respond by August this year.

Look out for the thousand of Fremantle Forever petitions been presented to parliament in June too.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

5 Responses to A quick update on amalgamations – a Freo perspective

  1. Colin Nichol says:

    Whatever, it does seem amalgamations will go ahead one way or another, the government seems firm on that. I have recently received the following message from local government Minister Tony Simpson:
    “At this stage the Government’s priority for metropolitan local government reform is the implementation of the changes necessary for the new local governments to start operating from 1 July next year”.

  2. Mark says:

    Brad I will pay for it either way I pay tax, I pay rates, either way I get the cost, the only real issue is here is who gives me the bill state or local gov?
    The sad thing is rate payers/tax payers listening to our so called representatives blaming each for the same outcome.
    I expect my rates to go up either way and I expect to get less service for it, the amalgamation will not improve my life in freo no more than if things stay as they are, the only difference will be more people not being listened too by maybe a smaller council.

    • Mark – cyncial – yes, but correct – not quite.
      With large councils like Rockingham, Joondellup, Waneroo and all non metro councils not paying any of the costs they will instead fall on a smaller number of ratepayers than if it was fairly spread to all sandgropers.
      Brad

  3. Mark says:

    Brad from what I have read on the metro reform site, is that council bodies are allocated funds/loans for their costs incurred I quote,

    “6. Will each local government get the same amount? If not, why not?

    Each case will be individual, depending on the extent of the changes recommended by the LGAB and the final decisions, based on those recommendations”
    end quote.

    So if a council is responsible for the cost of their actual amalgamation expenses why would i expect another council or its residents be burden with costs of another?

    Further I note that u did not disagree with me that rates will increase and services will decrease?
    On rate increases I also note that electrical costs for street lighting will increase, further driving up rates or not?
    What u call cynical I would say is realistic?
    Either way no matter how u spin it I pay?
    Or are u saying we will have no rate increases and our services will remain the same?, on this I will be happy, to be wrong on?

    On a side issue how did the meeting with DOH go when can we expect the announcement of their move to freo?

    • Mark. DoH meeting went well which was encouraging.
      The recnet WALGA Media Release answers soem of your other questions:
      29 May 2014 – Passing Blame on Costs to Ratepayers
      Local Governments should not be blamed as to the primary cause of likely increases in Council rates following the funding cuts and cost increases to Local Government included in the recent State Budget.

      The WA Local Government Association today defended Councils against media reports quoting the Premier as claiming that some rate increases were “really getting out of control”.

      WALGA President Mayor Troy Pickard said the State Government could not expect to cut significant funding streams to Local Government and hike up charges to the sector without having an impact.

      He said as a consequence of the Budget, Local Governments faced increased charges for essential services such as waste and street lighting and new costs resulting from inadequate funding for Council reform and severe cuts to road funding.

      “It is misleading to suggest that Councils are to blame for having to increase rates when it was the State Government who reduced Council funding and increased costs,” he said.

      “Given the circumstances, it is unfair to blame Councils for State Government budget decisions however I expect ratepayers will see through the smokescreen.”

      The recent State Budget confirmed a $70 million cut to local road funding over three years; an increase of 50% in street lighting charges over the same time frame; a significant increase in the household waste levy; and metropolitan reform funding that falls well short of that required according to all available evidence.

      In addition, Councils will lose approximately $10m in funding from a freeze on Financial Assistance Grants as part of the recent Federal Budget.

      Councils are also often faced with meeting a shortfall between the costs of delivering services and the fees the State Government determine they are able to pay.

      “I have been calling on the State Government; ironically with support from the Premier, former Treasurer and Local Government Minister; to initiate a general review of the Local Government fees and charges regime for over a year now, and I’m still awaiting confirmation from the Treasurer as to the scope and Terms of Reference of the inquiry,” Mayor Pickard said.

      “It is without question that both the State and Federal budgets reflected difficult financial circumstances that would be expected to impact every aspect of society.

      “However if the community is being asked by government to understand and accept the need for austerity measures then that same arm of government should accept the responsibility for implementation and not attempt to shift blame to Local Government.”

      In regard to suggestions that ratepayers would have lower rates as a consequence of reform, Mayor Pickard said this was unfounded and needed to be supported with empirical evidence.

      “Certainly if the State Government does not adequately fund the reform process and Councils are expected to pick up the costs then it is inevitable that rates will be increased,” he said.

      “The State Government has not accepted the reform cost projections offered by WALGA, while the Minister has claimed savings of $75m through the process but as yet there has not been any evidence presented to support these positions.”

      Ends

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