The price of survival

Serpentine Jarrahdale President Keith Ellis. Picture: David Baylis d422964
Serpentine Jarrahdale President Keith Ellis. Picture: David Baylis d422964

‘If we lose and spend $100,000, well at least we’ve given it a crack.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has ramped up its fight against the State Government, joining forces with 11 other Perth metropolitan councils and Vincent resident Ian Ker in an attempt to have the proposed boundary changes declared unlawful.

Supreme Court action was filed against Local Government Minister Tony Simpson and the Local Government Advisory Board on July 3. The first hearing will be held tomorrow (July 30).

Mr Ellis is well aware there is still a strong possibility the Shire will be forced to amalgamate, but up until that point, he refuses to have any part in the local government reform process.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale will be erased from the map if the State Government’s local government reform process goes ahead as planned on July 1 next year.

It will be taken over by the City of Armadale.

‘SJ Shire council hasn’t been very flash over the years,’ he said. 

‘It’s probably been the worst council in Australia; but the last two or three years it has turned around.

‘What we’ve got in the pipeline is staggering in terms of growth and that will help with rates.

‘We’ve got 96 projects in the development stage.

‘One of the problems with local government reform is we’ve been spending time putting in submissions, rather than getting on with the job.

‘The whole thing is totally counter-productive.’

Mr Ellis said the shire might be forced into amalgamation.

‘If the government of the day gets their way and we are placed under government orders, we will toe the line,’ he said.

‘We’ll play ball and work with Armadale because we’ve got to look after our ratepayers.

‘But up until that point we’re going to fight them.’

Mr Ellis has always been against council mergers, labelling the process a waste of time and money and at odds with the democratic rights of SJ residents.

‘When the first reform was mooted, the Government was going to pay for everything,’ he said.

‘And then they said there were going to be no forced amalgamations.

‘And then they got very clever and said let’s do a boundary change because that’s not an amalgamation, so that’s a sneaky way of getting around it.

‘SJ residents are very passionate about their community; it’s different to Armadale because it’s got rural land settings and historic towns.

‘It’s a totally different type of council; we’ve got some very passionate people who love the shire and they don’t see themselves as being part of Armadale, so they’re entitled, under the law, to have a fight.’

The council agreed reluctantly to join the Local Implementation Committee ” formed to guide merging councils through the reform process – with the Shire of Murray and City of Armadale.

It withdrew after the first four meetings, when the State Government released its budget which only allocated $60 million to fund the mergers of 30 metropolitan councils to 15. 

And, $45 million of the funds would be in the form of low-interest loans councils would have to pay back, and the remaining $15 million in grants, with $5 million released each year.

‘That’s when I said no way,’ Mr Ellis said. 

‘There’s no way the ratepayers should be paying for local government reform, especially when the State Government is $22 billion in debt.’

‘The SJ shire this year is debt free and they’re telling us we’re not running our shire properly.

‘The Government does not know how much it’s going to cost, it does not know how much it is going to save; they don’t have a business plan. 

“We’ve estimated it’s going to be $10 million and there’s 15 councils, so that’s going to be $150 million.”