State Opposition leader Mark McGowan has defended WA council rate rises, saying local government could not be blamed for hikes in street lighting costs and waste levies.
Fronting the WA Local Government Association annual meeting today Mr McGowan conceded he had been critical of rate rises in the past.
However, he said it was "a bit rich" for councils to be criticised for the size of their rate rises at a time when the cost of street lighting and the waste levy were increasing so significantly.
Mr McGowan drew applause when he said if his Government was elected he would change the Local Government Act to close the loophole that allows boundaries between councils to be redrawn without triggering a ratepayer vote, when the changes are classified as a boundary change instead of an amalgamation. The proposed change would effectively trigger the so-called poll provisions in the case of a boundary change, not just an amalgamation.
“This has been a time of turmoil, disruption and tumult and I think it was all avoidable,” he said in an at-times fiery speech.
“I think local government across Western Australia has been treated with the utmost disrespect and there has been a loss of trust between the state and local government across this state.”
Earlier Local Government Minister Tony Simpson told the meeting he had "no plans" to redrawn council boundaries in regional WA as the Government is trying to do in the metropolitan area. Instead he suggested the focus of any reform could be on service delivery.
“I have no plans for country reform at the moment,” he said. "My plate is full enough as it is with the metropolitan area.”
At the same time he noted WALGA had put together a committee to look at country reform and said that was something with which the sector should engage. He also highlighted the difference in the city versus country service delivery model, suggesting that would be the focus for any reform.
“When we talk about the reform process we’ve got a long way to go in those country areas but I think it’s more about how we can deliver those services better,” he said. “But I’m just trying to bed down what I have in front of me right now in terms of metropolitan reform."