Board-like call for councillors

Fremantle Society president Roel Loopers, who will be a candidate in the October council elections. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d390820
Fremantle Society president Roel Loopers, who will be a candidate in the October council elections. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d390820

The Robson Report on local government recommended councillors work to shake the perception their efforts were a ‘voluntary contribution to the community’ and ‘not a source of paid employment’.

The Robson panel said bigger councils would require elected members to ‘exhibit a higher standard of executive governance, similar to that of a board’.

‘The demonstration of board-like behaviour will be particularly important in a restructured environment where metropolitan local governments will typically serve large populations and have budgets of $200 million or more,’ the panel said.

The panel also said councillors would need to move from a representative role to one of leadership, consider the bigger picture and be less focused on matters of a localised nature.

However, while Mr Simpson said he had taken the recommendations on board, he was comfortable with the present training.

‘We have encouraged councillors to pursue the valuable training courses available as company directors, and in decision-making, running meetings, etc,’ he said.

Cockburn deputy mayor Kevin Allen said councils had taken a board-like perspective before reading the Robson Report, but there was room for improvement.

‘In particular, the finance to me is an area that requires expertise,’ he said. ‘There will be a limited budget for a bigger organisation and everyone will want it, so where the money is spent will be the biggest issue. But ever since I’ve been on council we have viewed our role like we are on a board of directors, accountable for the whole of the community.’

WA Local Government Association president and Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard said he expected local councillors to handle amalgamations well.

‘The future entities, although larger than their previous administrations, will not be significantly larger than some existing councils and so I don’t believe it is unfair to ask elected members to apply their governance responsibilities to a larger administration, particularly if they are given support in their role,’ he said.

‘Recent changes to the remuneration of elected members according to banded recommendations set by the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal reflects the increasingly complex role played by elected members in governing larger organisations with greater scope than was previously the case, and provides a good platform from which to start this process of reform.’

– Roel Loopers, a first-time candidate for a Fremantle Council ward in October, said standards would need to improve when the 14 councils were up and running.

‘There are a lot of dedicated amateurs making big decisions over money and people’s futures, so it’s important to make decisions on an informed basis, and more training will help to achieve that,’ he said. ‘There needs to be a holistic approach to how councils run. It can’t just be businesses looking after their own interests.’