We’re independent, says board

‘We are independent and not a rubber stamp for the Government,’ Local Government Advisory Board chairman Mel Congerton said.

The board will analyse councils’ responses to the Government’s July announcement to reduce the number of local councils to 14, including a G7 in the western suburbs, by July 2015, and increase the board from five to seven representatives drawn from bureaucrats, councils and its staff.

Legislation for the appointment of a sixth and seventh board member is expected in Parliament this month but a vote may not be held until the end of the year, two months after an expected announcement on the appointment of three members to replace those whose tenures finished on August 31.

Mayors and councillors are concerned that the members of the enlarged board will be influenced by the Government’s resolve for change, whether it has resources to consider multiple submissions and the status of requests for new councils preceding July, including Claremont Council’s G4 and Cambridge’s G2 proposals.

Mr Congerton said the G4 and G2 proposals would be considered using current laws but there was no rule that the requests must be immediately studied. It was likely they would be placed with all other submissions after the October 4 deadline because the board had to determine how each reply affected the others.

‘If we find that authorities should not be amalgamated then that will be a recommendation to the Local Government Minister Tony Simpson, but he can appeal,’ he said.

Claremont Mayor Jock Barker said while he was ‘heartened’ by Mr Congerton’s comments, his council would monitor board independence.

‘At the end of the day, the board’s members have to be approved by the Minister and (as) a consequence of that, we will be watching very closely whether it reflects exactly what Mr Simpson said we had to accept,’ he said.

– The Western Suburbs Weekly incorrectly reported last week that there was no decision on which authority would adjudicate on submissions. There is in fact no decision yet on who will make up the board. The error was made during the sub-editing process.