Shire merger plan rejected

Despite the four shires planning the amalgamation for several years, the board made a decision last week to reject the proposal.

In an assessment of the proposal to merge the four shires, the board noted there had been more than 160 public submissions opposing the plan, but just 21 in favour.

‘On balance, the board does not believe at this point in time that the current circumstances within the four local governments would facilitate an effective transition to a new local government entity,’ the board report states.

‘The board is also cognisant of the level of funding required to effect the merger and felt it was not in a position to recommend that the proposal proceed given its concerns about community consultation and the capacity of the four local governments to drive the change management process.’

Shire of York CEO Ray Hooper said he was disappointed with the decision.

‘From the business plan we expected it would be seen as viable. We thought the savings stacked up,’ Mr Hooper said.

Acting Local Government Minister Albert Jacob said the process identified efficiency improvements, which showed the benefits of reform.

‘Despite the LGAB’s recommendation not to proceed with an amalgamation, the business planning undertaken by the South East Avon Group has identified a number of opportunities to improve the efficiency and capacity of their local governments,’ Mr Jacob said.

‘The shires of Cunderdin, Quairading, Tammin and York are to be commended for the leadership role they have taken to date.

‘It’s important they work closely with their communities to create stronger councils which provide the best possible services, delivered with maximum efficiency.”

Mr Hooper said the shires practised resource sharing prior to planning for amalgamation and would continue to share resources to benefit the community.

He said the board found that the 8000 residents in the four shires were not enough people to be viable.

‘What is classed as big enough? If we don’t have enough people – who does?’ he said.

‘If structural reform is going to start somewhere, it should be carried out in the country too.’

Labor MP Darren West said the process had been handled badly.

‘The Government has said for several years they would like to see councils merge voluntarily,’ he said.

‘Councils have entered into that process in good faith, have spent much time, resources and money going down this path and now the Government has set 180 degrees to its position.’