VINCENT council will boycott the WA local government association conference this week.
Mayor John Carey says he can’t justify spending ratepayer money for what he believes will turn into a self-congratulatory love-in.
At last year’s WALGA conference Mr Carey put up a range of motions aimed at increasing council transparency, but they were given short shrift by the majority of delegates, 172 – 46.
Despite the snub, some of his measures like online gift registers were imposed on Perth city council by the Barnett government as it attempted to tidy up after a crime and corruption investigation into lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi, which found she’d engaged in serious misconduct by not declaring travel and gifts.
This year attendees are being charged $1475 for the three-day conference in August, which includes a talk from Antarctic expedition leader Rachael Robertson on teamwork, discussions on local government’s role in tourism, a mayors’ reception hosted by Ms Scaffidi, and a “Beer O’Clock” at Northbridge Brewery. There is also a talk on “transparency and empowerment” that’s available as a choice of three concurrent sessions.
Former Fremantle Docker Peter Bell will pass some words of wisdom, although his conference blurb features no mention of local government.
“WALGA protects the status quo,” says Mr Carey, adding his tux will stay in the wardrobe.
“It has failed consistency on accountability and transparency issues, and I don’t want to be wasting ratepayers’ money attending a conference that just pats itself on the back.”
Vincent council considered pulling out of WALGA altogether but stuck around so it could keep access councillor and staff training, and access to contractors.
But Mr Carey deeply disagrees with WALGA president Lynne Craigie’s assessment of the sector’s governance as “best practice”.
“My main beef with WALGA is it could be a powerful organisation for change in local government,” he says. “I am greatly disappointed in the current leadership and its failure to genuinely embrace reform for local government.”
by DAVID BELL