Forum debates future of Metropolitan Councils

Forum debates future of Metropolitan Councils

A local government forum has identified a preferred future for the sector, in which the number of Western Australian Councils could be reduced substantially.

The forum, consisting of more than 70 leaders from metropolitan Local Governments, also identified strategic cooperation as a key factor.

Organised by the WA Local Government Association (WALGA), the forum included representatives from all but one of the State's metropolitan Local Governments.

It was held to assist WALGA in determining a sector-preferred model to include in its submission to the Metropolitan Local Government Review Panel.

The State Government created the three-member Panel last June to consult and consider reform options with the specific requirement to reduce the number of Councils.

Forum participants considered four models, ranging from a simple refinement of the current structure through to a single-council model.

They demonstrated a strong preference for two models that reinforced strategic cooperation.

WALGA President Mayor Troy Pickard said the two preferred models would now be considered by the President's Advisory Group to recommend a position for endorsement from the WALGA Zones and State Council and submission to the Panel.

"It is fair to say there was a significant diversity of opinion among the forum participants," he said.

"This covered all aspects of the review, including the models that were presented and even the need for a metropolitan review," he said.

"There was a lot of concern about how to define a structure that deals not only with the current metropolitan population, but also has the scope and flexibility to adapt to significant population change over the next 50 years.

"While there remain those who question the underlying evidence of community and economic benefit in reducing the number of Councils, there is the reality that there is a formal process underway aimed at reducing Council numbers.

"We could decide to opt out of the process and lose the opportunity to contribute to the future of the sector, or we could do what we have done at this forum and take on the challenge of contributing to the process and finding the best possible outcome for our communities."