Subiaco joins merger battle

City of Vincent resident Ian Ker with lawyer John Hammond. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d421147
City of Vincent resident Ian Ker with lawyer John Hammond. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d421147

At a special council meeting last week, Subiaco councillors voted to join Mr Ker and Cottesloe lawyer John Hammond in legal action in the Supreme Court to declare the ministerial proposals for the amalgamation and culling of councils invalid.

‘Subiaco joining the litigation provides a sense of relief that the burden, financial and otherwise, is shared,’ Mr Ker said.

‘I think it is a great move for local government and democracy generally that the process is now being more widely challenged.’

Subiaco Mayor Heather Henderson said the City had an estimate of costs associated with the legal action but the final bill was still unknown.

‘Subiaco is a high performing and financially viable local government and we have a responsibility to our community to do everything we can to retain our independence,’ Mrs Henderson said.

‘When you consider the costs associated with a forced merger against the cost of legal fees, there is no doubt that council’s decision to proceed with legal action was the right one.’

Mr Ker said he planned to lodge the action ‘in the next couple of weeks’ before the Local Government Advisory Board made its recommendation, which is expected next month.

He said the litigation could take the State Government proposals ‘out of play’ and force the majority of remaining proposals to be withdrawn, or trigger the poll provisions under the Local Government Act and give communities a chance to have their say.

‘There are issues that Subiaco council and any other council would be concerned about in terms of the extent of any liability that they might be getting themselves into. My anticipation is that the cost would be shared, but that has not yet been negotiated,’ Mr Ker said.

Mr Ker said he had been privately funding the legal costs since he engaged Mr Hammond about three months ago.

‘My comment is ‘no comment’ other than ‘it is not cheap’,’ he said.

Mr Hammond said Subiaco was the first council in WA to plan Supreme Court action against the Government.

‘Having a council such as the City of Subiaco on board is an important step,’ he said.

‘We’ve had discussions with other councils but until those other councils declare their hand, we have to maintain confidentiality.

‘We will be in regular contact with both Subiaco council staff and councillors throughout this process. There will be no lead party; each body will stand as a separate plaintiff in the action.’

The City of Vincent held a special meeting of electors last night about local government reform.