Business votes in doubt

VOTES for businesses in local elections would be scrapped under a recommendation of the panel reviewing the rules around local government in WA.

The panel, headed by Balcatta Labor MLA David Michael, released its final report on Wednesday.

The report recommends advisory panels be used to help businesses get their voices heard in councils rather than via a couple of votes come election time.

“If structures and processes are in place to ensure all segments of the community are engaged, there may no longer be a need to extend election franchise beyond residents of the district,” the report concluded.

The recent inquiry in the City of Perth heard allegations of attempts to rig elections through the double-vote of businesses, with “sham leases” used to justify nominations and dozens of suspect voters linked to candidates.

The panel also recommended the creation of a single Local Government Commission by merging the existing grants commission and advisory board. The new body would oversee minor border changes, with the review panel finding the existing legislative framework inexplicably convoluted. 

It also wants to do away with referenda before amalgamations.

Another initiative among the 65 recommendations was to establish community boards as an alternative to amalgamations, allowing bigger and smaller councils to provide cross-border services that played to each other’s strengths.

“The panel noted that with 137 local governments ranging in populations from less than 200 to over 200,000, Western Australian local governments can be either too small to meet their responsibility, or too big to be properly representative of different localities within them, and respond adequately to varying community needs and demands,” the report said.

Regional councils would be dismantled to be replaced by a new “flexible” system where council would “enter into voluntary arrangements outside of the legislated model”.

Supply list queried

THE panel reviewing WA’s local government sector has recommended that a preferred supplier system highlighted in the Voice a fortnight ago needs to be reined in.

Bayswater recycler Resource Recovery Solutions is still on the WA Local Government Association’s Preferred Supplier Panel, despite the company repeatedly ignoring Worksafe orders (“Negligent recycler a ‘preferred supplier’,” Voice, July 25, 2020). 

RRS copped a record $500,000 fine in July for “gross negligence” over an incident that cost a worker his arm in 2016, but it was only after the Voice inquired that WALGA said a review of its place on the panel had been initiated.

WALGA admits it receives a payment from listed companies and there have been rumours of kickbacks for years, but the association won’t provide details because of what it argues is commercial confidentiality.

The review panel says the system needs regulation and more accountability.

“The panel supported the continuance of the WALGA Preferred Supplier Panel, subject to regular oversight and checks and balances to ensure that it is constituted correctly and there is accountability,” the review panel found in its final report.

By STEVE GRANT

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