Polls spark mayoral selection debate

LOCAL Government Minister Tony Simpson says there is a great interest among voters to directly elect their mayor.

The recent local government elections have again stirred debate about mayoral voting processes. “It is possible for a council to seek to have the method of election changed,” Mr Simpson said.

“I have not had strong representations from the public, or from the local government sector, seeking changes to make the system for electing the mayor uniform.

Bassendean Mayor John Gangell said he wanted the process in which mayors were voted to be reviewed.

Cr Gangell was voted in by his fellow councillors by a majority vote to be mayor once again for a four-year term last week.

“I would like to see the council review the structure,” he said. “I think it is time we engage our community more and see who they wish to be mayor.”

Bayswater Mayor Barry McKenna, who was elected to the role by the council last week, said the process on how the mayor was elected needed community consultation. “I think the community is a little bit wary of elected members making decisions without their consultation,” he said.

“Direct election of a mayor or council election of a mayor? It’s not important what I think, it’s more important what the community thinks.”

Councils can choose to adopt one of two systems for mayoral elections – voters directly elect the mayor or councillors decide.

A 2011 Metropolitan Local Government Review, the Robson Report, recommended all mayors and presidents be directly elected by the community.

But the WA Local Government Association and State Government did not support this recommendation, saying the current system allowed flexibility and opportunity to change, according to the needs of the community and their council.

WALGA president Lynne Craigie said the organisation supported either process.

“The processes in place that allows for the public or the council to implement a change to their leadership election process provide flexibility for individual councils and their communities to choose a method that best suits them, and change it over time if required,” Cr Craigie said.

City of Stirling Mayor Giovanni Italiano said the city worked on the ‘elected within’ selection process, where the 14 councillors vote for the mayor.

“The decision was made by the current council, that the status quo remains for the mayor to be elected within,” he said.