Fears rates will rise after mergers

‘As was shown by the merger of the councils of Greenough and Geraldton, there was a 25 per cent rates increase afterwards, and forced amalgamation in the western suburbs is a directly broken promise by the Premier,’ Opposition leader Mark McGowan said,

Weekend reports from leaks indicate western suburbs mayors will be told to create a G7 of all their councils, before new councillors elected in October take up to two years to establish the new authority.

During an acrimonious attempt to merge Subiaco and Nedlands councils in 2011, consultants KPMG investigated integrating the cities’ policies, computers, work practises and infrastructure and found rates could rise afterwards to pay for the changes.

‘If the leak is accurate, it can be anticipated the rates will go up, and the costs will go up, and 100 years of local government history and democracy will be scrapped,’ Nedlands councillor Bill Hassell said yesterday.

Claremont estimates $2.5 million is needed just to integrate its computers, and in a potential bid to prevent a G7 asked the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB) to investigate a smaller G4 centred on the Town two weeks ago.

‘It’s a last-ditch effort to get the G4 to succeed,’ Claremont Mayor Jock Barker said before the leak reports.

Fears that Cottesloe’s Civic Centre could be sold at any time after the changes led that council to ask the building’s heritage status include putting public and RSL access into law last week.

However, Subiaco’s large savings appear immune.

‘Subiaco’s reserve funds are set aside for specific purposes. They will not be used for funding a G7,’ chief executive Stephen Tindale said.

In talks with mayors since May, Local Government Minister Tony Simpson has indicated difficulty getting money for mergers in a tight State Budget on August 8.

Yesterday, he said the new model for councils was the best way to put downward pressure on rates, but he foreshadowed some increases.

‘Indeed, with the development of larger local governments with increased resources, the need for rate rises, and the amount of any rises, may be reduced,’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Simpson said the LGAB would assess Claremont’s submissions before a recommendation is made.