Reform underfunded: Pickard

The NSW funding is aimed at encouraging local governments to merge, with $153 million dedicated for Sydney metropolitan councils alone.

By contrast, the WA government is providing $60 million for metropolitan council reform, $15 million of which will be provided in grants and $45 million as low-interest loans.

‘The NSW government’s announcement demonstrates a clearer understanding on the true cost of reform and the need for strong and properly resourced local governments to help build the state,’ Mr Pickard said.

‘It is time for our government to take stock of the mounting evidence and growing support for realistic funding of the WA reform process.’

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson countered Mr Pickard’s claims, saying the WA amalgamation package equated to about $2 million for each of the 30 councils and was comparable to the $3.7 million allocated for each of Sydney’s 41 councils.

He said when including the number of residents per council, the WA funding offered about $31.97 per person, while NSW funding provided about $34.55 per person.

‘The WA Government is making a significant contribution to the cost of metropolitan local government reform,’ he said.

‘It would be wonderful if this State could afford a much bigger funding package, but sadly, the loss of GST revenue has a big impact here.’

Mr Pickard said WALGA research suggested the average cost of mergers would be between $4.1 million and $7.2 million per amalgamation.

‘Councils will soon face the prospect of either increasing revenue through rates and charges, or cutting back on basic services to fund reform,’ he said.