Merger challenge support grows

‘Previous legal advice has been general and appears to have been written for country shires facing amalgamation,’ Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said.

Last week, Mosman Park councillors agreed to contribute $300 towards the test and two other unnamed western suburbs councils have also backed asking lawyers for advice, if the Government does not clarify its ability to demand change.

All seven western suburbs councils would be merged if the Local Government Advisory Board adopts the Government’s submission being considered by the board until mid-2014.

Mr Hipkins said legal clarity was needed about whether councils should of been consulted when the Government changed proposed borders, including boundaries for a new City of Perth last month, from those announced in July, and about which councils had to comment by October 4. Proposed changes to the Local Government Act may give the board a new power that concerns councils.

‘Under present legislation the board can only consider new borders being put before it, but under the new legislation they can come up with their own variation which councils do not get to comment on,’ Mr Hipkins said.

He said the lawyers’ advice may not be requested if the Government answers councils’ concerns.

Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris said if there is no legal requirement for change, there could be a situation where councils might be spending ratepayers’ money on mergers without authority.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said the Local Government Act gave the Government power to conduct mergers and the changes to borders showed it has listened to community feedback. He said councils would be able to comment on the changed borders when the Local Government Advisory Board called for public submissions.