Saving the city with shoe leather

04. 832NEWS

• Denham “Bob” Boulger with his petition. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

DENHAM “BOB” BOULGER is 81 and full of beans.

He spent three days trudging around Vincent in the rain—hiking up stairs, avoiding rottweilers and assiduously door-knocking—to collect 142 signatures and trigger a special electors’ meeting on council mergers.

The sprightly octogenarian wants Vincent’s boundaries to remain intact, unlike Vincent city council which has officially proposed a merger with Perth, despite most Vincent councillors unofficially preferring the status quo.

“I was a councillor in Albany for 10 years and after they amalgamated things went downhill,” Mr Boulger says.

“So I know from personal experience that council mergers do not save money and are not effective. Colin Barnett claims this is all about economies of scale, but he’s just pushing his own personal agenda.”

The North Perth resident reminds readers that 70 per cent of Vincent voters polled at the  2013 council election favoured the city’s boundaries staying put. He says NSW professor Brian Dollery, an expert on local government, has found that mergers, like those botched in Queensland, are costly and socially divisive.

“I feel like I’m 21—this is my battleground.”

Vincent mayor John Carey says if amalgamations go through it is highly likely next year’s rates increase will be much higher than this year’s mild 3.62 per cent bump.

“I spoke to the CEO of Greater Geraldton at a WALGA breakfast who estimated that their amalgamation would cost around $7 million,” he says.

“So my gut feeling is that rates for Vincent residents will go up to pay for mergers.

“I think the only way that amalgamations can now be stopped is through legal action in the courts.”

Mr Boulger says he is aware council submissions on mergers have already been lodged, but believes the process can still be halted.

“This isn’t done and dusted yet, there will be twists and turns to come,” he says.

“I feel like I’m 21—this is my battleground.”

Mr Boulger says he divides his time between campaigning to halt mergers and his new company, which builds state-of-the-art speakers from WA timber and sheep’s wool.

The special electors’ meeting will be held at Vincent council on June 9 at 6pm.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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