Local Government Transparency Changes Underway in Freo
December 15, 2015 4 Comments
For those of you that didn’t catch this on ABC 1 news, Freo has joined up with Vincent, Bassendeen, Vic Park and other Perth Councils (as well as the Minister for Local Government) to take steps towards making our councils more transparent and accountable. While the Local Government sector is already pretty good in this regard I think there are some steps we can take to make it even better. Thanks to John Carey for his leadership on this.
Freo will be looking at implementing an online gift register and donations register and other aspects next month too.
WA Government to set up website comparing councils’ performance
The Western Australian Government plans to follow Victoria’s lead, by setting up a website allowing ratepayers to compare the best and worst performing councils.
Similar to the My School website, the Victorian Government’s website, launched last month, includes information on rates, council expenses and service delivery across a range of areas, including road construction and library costs.
WA Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said he hoped the move would improve transparency and accountability across the state’s 138 local governments.
Mr Simpson said it would start with basic details on council spending and rates but the plan was to expand it include details such as the time taken by each council for planning and building approvals.
“So we understand where our rates are going, how much we are spending on councillors, how much we’re spending on roads, how much we’re spending on libraries, so that money is quite clearly what they call transparency of where that money is going,” he said.
“I think most ratepayers want to know where their money is going, how their rates are being spent.
“Obviously from that I would love to grow that and talk to the Minister for Planning around how we can get some transparency around planning applications, building applications [and] I think that would be really good to actually show.
“What I’d really love to do is put a bit of competition back into local government so they can actually start playing off each other and showing who’s better than each other at delivering those services, which would be really good as well.”
The Government has already flagged plans to give the Auditor-General the powers to scrutinise the finances of all councils and Mr Simpson said Cabinet had already approved the drafting of legislation to enable that.
Perth mayors support Victorian model
A group of mayors from the Fremantle, Vincent, Victoria Park and Bassendean councils have joined forces to improve transparency in their sector and today they met with Mr Simpson to discuss the new measures.
All supported the Government adopting the Victorian model.
Vincent Mayor John Carey said at the core of democracy was ratepayers’ right to know and to access critical information on their council with ease.
“The sector has two choices, embrace change, or be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century … unfortunately I think it will be the latter,” he said.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said currently information was hard to find and ratepayers had to spend a lot of time digging through annual reports and other documents to get access to it.
“What this will do, is it will help both ratepayers understand where their council sits, and the councillors, and actually really help us as a sector get better,” he said.
“And I think that’s actually the real benefit of this, we get to almost learn off each other, compete with each other and become better performing organisations.”
Mr Simpson said details on each local government’s “financial sustainability score” would be made publicly available first, but he hoped the more comprehensive website to rate councils on other services they delivered across a range of areas would be running by mid-next year.