LOCAL governments would be going backwards if they just focused on “roads, rubbish and rates”, according to Local Government minister David Templeman.
State politicians used this week’s WA Local Government Association (WALGA) AGM to argue about the role councils should play.
Mr Templeman said the sector was doing remarkable things, largely in response to what the community demanded and requested from it.
“There’s no doubt that local government has a lot on its plate at the moment,” he said.
“We’ve gone way past roads, rubbish and rates.
“We don’t want to go backwards; the important work that local government does now needs to continue.”
Mr Templeman highlighted the City of Stirling’s kaleidoscope program to help newcomers get jobs and employers benefit from diverse employees.
He said local governments needed to be responsive, relevant and sometimes fill the gap to meet their communities’ needs.
Opposition Leader Liza Harvey told the room of councillors that local government offered vital services to the community but there were areas it should not be responsible for.
Ms Harvey said it was clear local government was “under siege” looking at media and politically commentary, including “sprinkle-gate” accusations against the City of Cockburn when it followed Healthway guidelines for an event.
“There are lots of gaps that local government are looking likely to pick up,” she said.
“As soon as you pick it up and you increase your rates, you are going to have the community screaming at you.”
Instead, she said local governments could speak to Opposition MPs if they needed help to get State Government to take responsibility for issues such as homelessness.
WALGA president Lynne Craigie said the local government reform gave the sector an opportunity to showcase what it did.
“Local Government has become everything and anything,” she said.
“The ever expanding role of local government is greater than roads, rates and rubbish.
“The community needs and indeed demands more than that.”
Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said local government was facing an onslaught through media about its role.