Pilbara, Gascoyne councils back amendments to local government reform to keep more councillors

Alexander ScottPilbara News
Shire of Exmouth president Darlene Allston wants the council to be able to choose how many councillors it has.
Camera IconShire of Exmouth president Darlene Allston wants the council to be able to choose how many councillors it has. Credit: Alexander Scott/Pilbara News/RegionalHUB

Pilbara and Gascoyne councils have backed amendments to the State Government’s contentious local government reforms that would result in small local governments lose less council members than originally thought.

As part of the original proposed reforms, shires with a population of fewer than 5000 residents would be restricted to having just five councillors, but an amended proposal would allow small local governments to choose between five to seven.

Other proposed reforms, such as the introduction of preferential voting for mayors and shire presidents, remain unchanged.

Shire of Exmouth president Darlene Allston said the council strongly supported the amendment for small councils to choose to have five to seven councillors.

“We believe that our community deserves the best representation possible,” she said.

“I believe that the variety of our councillors and their individual expertise represents the Exmouth community and enables us to make the best possible decisions on behalf of our community members.”

Cr Allston said the proposed changes would enhance local government democracy.

“It will enable small local governments like Exmouth to reduce red tape further and improve transparency while considering the limited resources we are facing compared to bigger areas in WA,” she said.

Some of the proposed changes, including a requirement to livestream all council meetings and for local government elections to move to a preferential system rather than first past the post system, have been less well received.

“Evidence suggests that publicly elected mayors do not always have the support of their fellow councillors, whereas there is generally greater unity and a better working relationship when the mayor is elected by their peers,” the City of Karratha’s submission to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Community said.

It also raised concerns livestreaming could stifle debate on contentious matters.

A City of Karratha spokesperson said the council supported a review of legislation to ensure the Local Government Act appropriately reflected the environment in which local governments operated.

“While the reforms could go further to allow autonomy, flexibility and innovation, most are a step in the right direction recognising that there is no one size fits all approach to managing the affairs of local governments across WA,” they said.

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