Each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association President. The following is from Councillor Ian Michel, President of the Western Australian Municipal Association.
National agendas are running strong in WA at present and none more so than the issue of Local Government's entitlement to a share of the National Competition Policy dividend. WAMA has argued strongly at the national level, in support of ALGA, for the current bilateral agreement on NCP between Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to be formally re negotiated to include Local Government.
Local Government in WA was fortunate enough to be able to convince the State Government to establish the Local Government Development Fund with $4 million of its first tranche payment of the NCP dividend a few years ago.
This came in recognition of the important role Local Governments play in securing the State's compliance with its NCP obligations Budget constraints now threaten its continuance.
WAMA has launched into its State Budget campaign, cognisant of the coming State election, likely in February, and is pushing hard for the maintenance of the Local Government Development Fund.
The changing demographics of our population is also paramount in the minds of our Councils as social planning staff continue to reinforce the need for governments, at all levels, to be more focused on the implications of the pending retirement of the 'Baby Boomers'.
This is also a key platform in our State Budget submission, with both Local Governments and the Association needing social planning, recreation program and facility funding to begin assessing and addressing needs.
There is also much interest in the governance of communities in WA at present, due to a number of adverse Inquiries into
Local Governments by the Department of Local Government, the most prominent of which has been the dismissal of the City of Cockburn nearly two years ago, and the suspension of the City of South Perth in November.
While nobody would resile from the task of ensuring that good governance prevails in any Local Government, there are real questions being asked about the adequacy of the process by which Local Governments in WA are reported, investigated and judged.
If the people who operate in the Local Government system are to have faith in the integrity of that system, then the Inquiry process must be regularly reviewed and assessed to ensure the State Government is applying best practice.
This is no less of an expectation than is placed on Local Governments by the agencies that we report to and the communities we serve. It is reasonable to expect the same from the Department of Local Government.
WAMA is co operating with the Institute of Municipal Management to conduct a joint review of the inquiry process which hopefully will provide a catalyst for the Minister to establish a formal review of this critical area of the Local Government Act.