Mayors query merger funding

‘Hopefully they will give us more background as there’s no (transition) budget and no costings, so it’s all a bit sketchy,’ Peppermint Grove president Rachel Thomas said.

Last week, the State Government announced just $200,000 for a committee potentially comprising up to 10 affected councils to write a submission to the Local Government Advisory Board for the western suburbs by October 4.

‘My impression was these changes would be self-funded, including from rates later,’ Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris said.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson told mayors ‘cost savings’ and surpluses could be found for mergers, but his only example was about $2 million saved by having a single council chief executive in the western suburbs.

Cottesloe Mayor Kevin Morgan said this was an indication council assets would have to be sold to pay for, or reduce, the Government’s contribution to the cost of creating a new council.

‘I’d say the Government will put out a discrete lost of transition costs the Government will fund, and if your transition cost is calculated to be greater, but you have a ‘surplus’ civic centre, then you’ll have to sell it and the cost to the Government will be nothing,’ Mr Morgan said.

His council is attempting to place a caveat on its heritage-listed Civic Centre so that it cannot be sold and public access is retained after creation of any new council.

Mr Simpson’s spokeswoman repeated the Government’s answer each time it is asked about council asset sales to fund mergers.

‘There is no intention for any of the changes to affect local government ownership of their community assets,’ she said. ‘Local government assets continue to be local government assets, regardless of any amalgamations taking place.’

Funding may be discussed when council chief executives are briefed on the submission process by the Department of Local Government this Thursday.