No Forced Local Government Amalgamations

What they promised

We are not going to force amalgamations.

- Colin Barnett, 6/8/09

What they say now

Number of metropolitan councils reduced from 30 to 14 by July 2015

- Ministerial Media Statement, 30/7/13

23 Oct 2014 - In clear contradiction to their previous commitments not to force the amalgamations of local governments, the Liberals have announced that metropolitan councils would be reduced from 30 to 14 by July 2015 .

Throughout the first term of his Government, Colin Barnett consistently denied a plan to force the amalgamations of local governments. Despite this he has now announced that metropolitan councils would be reduced from 30 to 14 by July 2015.

This is clear contradiction to his previous commitments and those by Tony Simpson the local member of Parliament for the Darling Range. Mr Simpson was forced to issue a press statement during the election campaign to clarify the Liberal Party's position in relation to this matter.

‘I recently made some remarks at a local forum that the Liberal Party supported forced amalgamations, I got it wrong, it was my mistake. I apologise for the confusion this has created.'

The Premier also repeated his commitment not to force amalgamations of local governments in a Residents' Newsletter in his own electorate in the summer of 2013.

I have always believed that a combined council covering Claremont, Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove makes sense, however claims that the State Government will use its powers to force such amalgamations are simply not true.

At the press conference announcing the decision the Premier denied he was forcing council mergers but councils will not have any avenue to debate the new boundaries.  He also announced that the Dadour provisions, which allowed councils to protest against forced mergers would also be abolished.   

Kevin Morgan, the Major of Cottesloe described it as ‘electoral fraud and a ‘very sad day for democracy in this state'. (The West Australian online 30 July 2013)

Update 24/10/2015

The Barnett Government released the new boundaries for local government on the 22 October 2014.  There will be 3 different processes used to create the new councils. 

1.       Boundary changes

2.       Amalgamations

3.       Legislation

Only residents living in those councils that are being created through the amalgamation process will have the opportunity to vote on whether they support the amalgamation process.  This affects Fremantle, North Fremantle, Cockburn, Kwinana, South Perth and Victoria Park. 

Those residents living in other council areas where the process is being done through boundary changes will have no opportunity to vote on whether they accept the boundary changes.  This affects residents in Bayswater, Bassendean, Mundaring, Swan, Belmont, Kalamunda, Gosnells, Canning, Armadale, Murray, Serpentine Jarrahdale, Cambridge, Subiaco and parts of Stirling,

In the third scenario a new city of Perth formed through the amalgamation of Perth and Vincent will be created by legislation.  This will provide no opportunity for the local residents to have a say in this process. 

No explanation has been provided in relation to the different approaches being taken.

Below is an extract from Inside State ‘So much pain for no clear gain’ published in the West Australian on 23/10/14.

Somehow, residents of Fremantle and East Fremantle or South Perth and Victoria Park will be allowed to vote on their council merger, whereas residents in Subiaco and Cambridge, Canning and Gosnells, or Belmont and Kalamunda will not. In each case, the net effect is the same — two councils become one — but the process is entirely different.

Why? Local Government Minister Tony Simpson was utterly unable to explain that yesterday. He tried to pin it on the Local Government Advisory Board, saying he was empowered only to accept or reject its recommendations. The real reason appears to be base politics: the Government has given votes to the ratepayers it thinks will go for mergers, and has removed the option for ratepayers it thinks will not.  P19 West Australian 23/10/14

An overview of the Government decision is available here.

Update 14/07/2015

Following the rejection of 3 amalgamation votes in the councils that were eligible for them, the forced amalgamations through boundary changes were called off.

The only remaining proposed change is to the boundaries of the City of Perth concerning QEII and UWA, subject to the passing of the City of Perth Act which is currently before Parliament.

The final cost of the failed reform process is estimated to be approximately $40 million, half of which was borne by the councils themselves.