The West

Mayors fear the  cost of changes
Reputations hurt: Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

Perth mayors will today confront Local Government Minister Tony Simpson with warnings they may have to sell assets, cut services and raise rates to fund looming amalgamations and boundary changes.

Mr Simpson said he was expecting a heated briefing with mayors and chief executives angry at the lack of funding for local government reform in last week's State Budget, joking he would be "checking for no rocks in their pockets" at the meeting.

The Government is facing a groundswell of anger from councils shocked to learn they were expected to fund most of the cost of halving the number of metropolitan councils through up to $45 million in subsidised loans, with just $5 million a year for three years offered in grants.

Mr Simpson would not comment on whether he believed the Government had earmarked enough in funding or if more could be on the table once the Local Government Advisory Board makes its final recommendation.

But he acknowledged the funding package was "probably not what the local governments wanted".

"It's a hard Budget," he said. "It's always hard at times when you're trying to do this reform process and basically work through a tight budget.

"The reform process has started and I'm in the unusual situation where I actually don't know how many local governments there will be. That final number and the boundaries are not quite confirmed."

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said councils felt betrayed.

"It's a very strong push-back from our members," he said.

"The feelings of betrayal, disappointment and disgust would accurately describe the range of emotions that are going through the leaders in the sector, particularly among those who have actively participated in the process: they feel like not only have they been let down but stood up."

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said local government's reputation could be damaged because ratepayers would ultimately bear the cost of reform.

The West Australian

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