State-local partnership for Western Australia- Presidentís commen
WALGA’s annual convention in August provided an opportunity for elected members and senior staff from local governments around the state to network with one another; engage with an extensive program featuring local, national and international speakers; and enjoy a varied trade exhibition of suppliers to the sector.
Preceding the convention is a State and Local Government Forum with state government presentations on key portfolios of interest to our sector and rotational dialogues between individual Councils and senior staff of state government agencies.
This year’s convention also featured the signing of a State and Local Government Partnership Agreement that sets out how state and local government consult and communicate with each other on significant issues.
It includes a communication and consultation protocol allowing minimum time frames for consultation and processes for achieving common goals.
This formal agreement on our interactions will help ensure understanding and acceptance of new initiatives and will provide an additional check that the government has not overlooked critical factors.
Securing a partnership agreement was an election commitment of the ALP and formed a key part of the WALGA election platform.
We have not had a partnership agreement in place for the past 10 years and whilst it might sound like a simple thing, its absence has only highlighted its worth.
In one recent example, the then State Government decided to end vehicle registration concessions for local government, without any consultation or negotiation. It was estimated this alone could result in up to three per cent rate increases for some councils.
Following widespread advocacy and a change of government at the State election in March, a disallowance motion was passed through Parliament that effectively restored the concessions.
In another example, the supposedly ‘helpful’ Instant Start program for builders wishing to commence works prior to receiving council approvals actually caused more problems than it remedied and was consequently shelved.
If genuine consultation had occurred on each of these occasions, local governments would have been able to ensure the government was aware of the impacts and risks of these decisions, and possibly even help to find alternative solutions.
The signing of a Partnership Agreement is tangible evidence of the new State Government’s commitment to establishing a quality relationship with the sector. It represents positive progress and is an approach most likely to achieve real, supported change in our sector.
We look forward to working together with the State under this new framework to achieve common goals in servicing local communities.