‘Scratch my back’

SOME councillors have been offering to support mayoral candidates in exchange for well-paid roles, says Bayswater councillor Catherine Ehrhardt.

Cr Ehrhardt says she hadn’t been aware of the backroom deals at councils where mayors are voted in by their colleagues, prior to her election in 2015, and says they should be stamped out by putting the election of the mayor directly in the hands of ratepayers.

After speaking to the Voice, Cr Ehrhardt backed her comments by putting forward a motion suggesting ratepayers be asked if they wanted a direct vote for mayor, as is done at Perth and Vincent.

“I really hope that my fellow councillors give the opportunity to ratepayers to have their voice heard,” Cr Ehrhardt said, but with only Brent Fleeton and Dan Bull supporting her the motion was lost.

Cr Ehrhardt said she’d checked with the council’s admin after learning about the deal-making and was surprised to discover it wasn’t outlawed by the local government act.

Vincent council acknowledged the issue in its Raising the Bar discussion paper released in April this year, when it said directly electing mayors was more transparent and democratic, and made the mayor more accountable to ratepayers. It also curtailed factionalism.

Deal-making

“I don’t think the wider community is aware of the amount of deal-making that goes into someone becoming mayor,” says Cr Ehrhardt.

“It’s not ‘who’s going to be the best mayor,’ it’s people negotiating for paid roles.”

One commonly touted downside of a popularly elected mayor is the added expense of running a campaign, since candidates have to canvas the whole city for votes instead of a single ward.

The argument is that it could favour political party members who have large war chests behind them.

“It could become a political thing, but quite honestly politics is already well and truly in the race for local council,” says Cr Ehrhardt. More than half Bayswater’s elected members are paid-up party members.

by DAVID BELL

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