Rule change causes alarm

‘But we’re still on track for a mid to late July announcement,’ chairman Mel Congerton said.

The five-member board will still be considering public comment on late ideas for mergers from Perth, Subiaco, Mosman Park and Kalamunda councils until Thursday.

But some mayors question the process, after the State Government scrapped the board’s conflict of interest rule from regulations on June 9 that prevented Mr Congerton, a City of Swan councillor, as well as fellow members City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox and Shire of Mundaring President Helen Dullard deciding on neighbouring councils.

‘Bias or perceived bias is treated very seriously by the legal profession, and no judge or lawyer would accept that conflict of interest can be acceptably excluded in any decision-making body,’ Claremont Mayor Jock Barker said.

Dr Silcox is a former Nedlands chief executive and Melville borders the City of Fremantle, which is in dispute over Mosman Park’s claim to North Fremantle.

Asked if Dr Silcox should decide on western suburbs mergers, Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said while he recognised merging seven western suburbs councils created multiple opportunities for conflicts of interest, emphasis should be on current links between board members and councils, although he thought the North Fremantle issue was enough for a disqualification.

‘By just changing the regulations, after failing to get MPs’ support to alter the law, the Government has given board members relief from conflicts of interest after June 9, but what about decisions made before then?’ Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris said.

He was concerned the Government would use similar tactics to bypass the Local Government Act’s Dadour Amendment allowing residents to vote against mergers.

Mr Congerton said the rule was removed so the board could look at the overall affect of new borders across Perth, and the regulation was applied before June 9, causing Dr Silcox to leave any discussion about Melville.

‘If there was a conflict between the westerns suburbs, then Shayne, under the old rules, would have had a conflict of interest,’ Mr Congerton said.