BAYSWATER mayor Sylvan Albert has blasted Colin Barnett for a “shambolic” handling of now-abandoned council mergers.
The WA government’s plan to slash the number of WA councils from 30 to 16 local was officially cancelled Tuesday, with the premier returning to Treasury $60 million that had been set aside.
“The blame lies firmly with the premier and his failure to provide strong leadership on this issue,” says Cr Albert, who’d run as a Liberal candidate at the last state election. “With clear direction and the right mechanisms, reform could have been achieved.
“The premier has overseen a process that has taken six years to get to this point and what an incredible waste of time and money it has been.
“The premier’s approach in seeking to blame local government just won’t wash.”
Cr Albert is demanding the Barnett government reimburse his council for the $1.2 million it spent in good faith, preparing for amalgamation.
“Our community—families, mums, dads and seniors—should not have to foot the cost of this,” he says.
He scoffs as media spin the premier’s claim local governments were not instructed to spend money on reform: “It sounds like a message developed by his media advisers.”
Cr Albert was one of a handful of mayors happy with the proposed merger outcome, which would have seen Bayswater annex Bassendean and sections of Stirling and Swan.
Meanwhile, Stirling mayor Giovanni Italiano is still demanding his city be reimbursed the $800,000 it spent on the process (Voice, February 14, 2015): “I only wish the state government had listened to what the community was overwhelmingly saying much earlier,” he says. “It would have saved everyone a lot of anxiety, disharmony and money.
“This process has created a lot of damage within the sector that could take years to repair.”
Cr Giovanni and his city opposed the mergers from the onset but spent the money as the government had made it clear it was proceeding.
The wheels fell off the mergers plan when Kwinana, South Perth and East Fremantle residents rejected amalgamations in binding local referenda.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK